Jessica McClure

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Jessica McClure Morales
Born Jessica McClure
(1986-03-26) March 26, 1986 (age 29)
Midland, Texas, U.S.
Known for Falling into a well at 18 months old

Jessica McClure Morales (born March 26, 1986) became famous at the age of 18 months after falling into a well in her aunt's backyard in Midland, Texas, on October 14, 1987. Between that day and October 16, rescuers worked for 58 hours to free her from the eight-inch (20 cm) well casing 22 feet (6.7 m) below the ground. The story gained worldwide attention (leading to some criticism as a media circus), and later became the subject of a 1989 television movie Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure on ABC. As presented in it, a vital part of the rescue was the use of the then relatively new technology of waterjet cutting.

The Rescue[edit]

Rescuing Jessica proved to be a much more difficult ordeal than initially anticipated. Within hours of discovering the situation, the Midland Fire and Police Departments devised a plan that involved drilling an additional shaft parallel to the well and then drilling a perpendicular tunnel from that shaft toward where Jessica was wedged in the well. Enlisting the help of a variety of local (often out-of-work) oil-drillers, the Midland officials had hoped to free Jessica in a matter of minutes. However, the first drillers to arrive on the scene found their tools barely adequate in penetrating the thick rock that surrounded the well. It would take approximately six hours to complete the parallel shaft and a substantially longer period of time to dig the tunnel, attributable to the fact that the jackhammers used were developed primarily for drilling downward, as opposed to sideways. A mining engineer was eventually brought in to help supervise and coordinate the rescue effort. 45 hours after Jessica had first fallen into the well, the shaft and tunnel were finally complete.

Ron Short, a muscular roofing contractor who was born without collar bones because of cleidocranial dysostosis and so could collapse his shoulders to work in cramped corners, arrived at the site and offered to go down the shaft; they accepted his offer, but did not use it.[1][2]

Ultimately, it was Midland Fire Department paramedic Robert O'Donnell who was able to inch his way down into the tunnel that drillers had created and wrest Jessica free from the confines of the well shaft, handing her off to fellow paramedic Steve Forbes, who carried her to safety.

Media impact[edit]

CNN, then a fledgling cable news outlet, was on the scene with around-the-clock coverage of the rescue effort. This massive media saturation of the ordeal prompted then-President Ronald Reagan to state that "everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on."

From the beginning, and throughout the incident, the switchboard for a local media outlet, KMID-TV, was flooded with telephone calls from news organizations and private individuals around the world, seeking the latest information on rescue efforts—and in some cases, sharing their own insight into this and similar incidents.

In 1988, McClure and her family appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee to talk about the incident.

The photograph of McClure being rescued fetched the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography to Scott Shaw of the Odessa American.[3]

ABC made a television movie of the story in 1989, Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure, starring Patty Duke and Beau Bridges. It featured many participants in the actual rescue and its coverage as extras.

On May 30, 2007, USA Today ranked McClure number 22 on its list of "25 lives of indelible impact."[4]

In 2010, blues musician Charlie Musselwhite released an album titled The Well. In the title song he credits McClure's ordeal for inspiring him to quit drinking, stating,

She was trapped in there with a broken arm in the dark, in a life-and-death situation she was singing nursery rhymes to herself and being brave...It made my problems seem tiny. So as a prayer to her and myself, I decided I wasn't going to drink till she got out of that well. It was like I was tricking myself, telling myself that I wasn't going to quit for good, just until she got out. It took three days to get her out, and I haven't had a drink since.[5]

After the incident[edit]

George H. W. Bush holds McClure in the White House.

Following McClure's rescue on October 16, 1987, surgeons had to amputate a toe due to gangrene from loss of circulation while in the well. She also has a scar on her forehead where her head rubbed against the well casing. She has had 15 surgeries over the years, and has no first-hand memory of the event.[6] She graduated from Greenwood High School, in a small community near Midland, in May 2004.

On January 28, 2006, McClure married Daniel Morales at a Church of Christ in Notrees, Texas just outside of Midland. They met at a day care center where his sister worked with her.[7] They have two children, Simon and Sheyenne.

On March 26, 2011, when McClure turned 25, she received a trust fund of donations worth up to $800,000. Her father said she had discussed setting up a trust fund for the college education of her children. It had earlier helped in the purchase of her present home, which is less than two miles (3.2 km) from the site of the 1987 incident.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Lucie Brock-Broido's long narrative poem "Jessica from the Well" tells the story from McClure's point of view, describing her as having a basic understanding of the physical and mythic elements of her situation. It has been reprinted numerous times.[8]
  • The Simpsons episode Radio Bart is loosely based on the Jessica McClure incident. After a bad birthday party, Bart uses a radio that he got from Homer to play pranks on the town of Springfield. This includes Bart sending a transmitter down an old well and calling himself Timmy. Just like the 1987 incident, a media circus ensues complete with Ferris Wheel, concessions, and a hit single by Sting. A dramatic rescue effort takes place after Bart really falls down the well while trying to retrieve his transmitter.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger episode 25 of season 3 "Miracle at Middle Creek" features Walker learning a small boy being trapped underground while pursuing a gang of bank robbers, unaware that the boy's father was forced to help in the robbery. Walker gets trapped with the boy forcing Trivette to rescue him. At one point, a travelling reporter calls her station manager and says "they may have a Baby Jessica all over again." The boy and Walker are successfully rescued and the robbers are apprehended with the boy's father assisting the Rangers in their capture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kennedy, J. Michael (October 17, 1987). "Jessica Makes It to Safety—After 58 1/2 Hours". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2010. 
  2. ^ Scott, Ronald W. (November 1988). "Cleidocranial Dysplasia: An Enigma Among Anomalies" (PDF). The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy 10 (5): 184–8. ISSN 0190-6011. Retrieved November 24, 2010. 
  3. ^ Staff. "1988 Winners and Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes. Columbia University. Retrieved November 24, 2010. 
  4. ^ Koch, Wendy (May 29, 2007). "Lives of Indelible Impact". USA Today. Retrieved November 24, 2010. 
  5. ^ Kot, Greg (September 28, 2010). "How 'Baby Jessica' Saved Blues Great Charlie Musselwhite". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Blaney, Betsy (March 25, 2011). "Baby Jessica turns 25, gains access to trust fund". Xfinity News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 26, 2011. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  7. ^ Celizic, Mike (November 6, 2007). "Baby Jessica 20 Years Later". MSNBC. Retrieved November 24, 2010. 
  8. ^ Brock-Broido, Lucie (1988). "Jessica, from the Well". A Hunger. New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780394563374. 

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