In 1987, Jessica McClure tripped, fell, and landed in what would be a terrifying 58 hours stuck underground in a well. Now, over 30 years later, the woman dubbed “Baby Jessica” is all grown up and living her own life.
Everything Happened On October 14, 1987
Jessica McClure was no more than 18 months old when her life almost came to an end. On October 14, 1987, she was visiting her aunt with her mother in Midland, Texas. But what started as nothing more than a friendly visit turned horrifying.
It took only one phone call and Jessica’s mother turning her back for the toddler to fall down the backyard well.
The Well Was 22 Feet Below Ground
Jessica’s mother turned her back, and that split second was all it took for the toddler to fall into the well. At 22 feet deep and eight inches in diameter, Jessica was completely stuck inside the well casing.
To make matters worse, her leg was lodged above her head. As any child her age would do in this circumstance, she began to cry.
Her Story Was About To Cause A Stir
It didn’t take long for Jessica’s mother to figure out what had happened to her child. In no time, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and even the media were swarming the backyard.
While a majority of the people wanted nothing more than to help the scared child, the media was ready to put the story on the 6 o’clock news.
Hours Passed Without Any Progress
When they first got there, the paramedics and firefighters had a solid game plan to extract Jessica from the well. As the hour dragged on, though, they realized that things weren’t going to be as easy as they initially thought.
The rescue team ran into a snag in their original plan.
Plan A: Parallel Drilling With A Horizontal Cross-Tunnel
At first, the rescue team wanted to drill a parallel shaft to the well where Jessica was stuck. Then, they were going to drill another horizontal cross-tunnel to rescue her. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.
The well was surrounded by rock, and the rescue team didn’t have strong enough tools to penetrate it.
They Began Pumping Oxygen Into The Well
Their jackhammers would have been fine if they solely had to drill into the rock vertically. The tool wasn’t designed for horizontal use. They had to think of another way to rescue Jessica, and quick.
In the meantime, the rescue team filtered oxygen into the well in hopes that it would bide their time.
Plan B: Waterjet Cutting
Eventually, a mining engineer arrived and, after some time, another plan formed. Since jackhammers weren’t going to do the trick, the process of waterjet cutting was thrown into the mix.
Unfortunately, waterjet cutting was a very new technology at the time, and the rescue team wasn’t sure how it would work.
The Waterjet Could Potentially Cut Horizontally
A waterjet cutter is a tool that is capable of cutting through many materials by the use of extremely high water pressure.
The rescue team thought that if they couldn’t get a jackhammer to cut through the rocks horizontally, then maybe waterjet cutting was the answer they were looking for.
The Only Thing Between Jessica And The Jet Was The Rock
Even with a new plan in place, it was risky. The only thing in between Jessica and the powerful waterjet was the stone they were trying to remove. But they had to try.
Thankfully, the team knew the little girl was alright, as she was singing songs like “Winnie the Pooh.”
58 Hours Later, Robert O’Donnell Pulled Her Out
With people watching the nail-biting rescue in person and on the news, the rescue team worked their hardest to rescue Baby Jessica. Finally, one man crawled through the well casing and down the shaft to pull out the toddler 58 hours later.
A photo taken by Scott Shaw of Robert O’Donnell holding Baby Jessica post-rescue won a Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.
The Former President Made A Speech
Many people were watching CNN when former president Ronald Reagan came onscreen, saying, “Everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on.” But Jessica’s ordeal wasn’t over.
Yes, she was rescued from the well, but the ill-fated fall resulted in both high and low points in the McClure family’s lives.
High Points: Television Appearances And A TV Movie
Thankfully, there were some high points after Baby Jessica was rescued from the well. The McClure family appeared on an episode of Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.
ABC even made a television movie about the ordeal, Everybody’s Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure, starring Patty Duke and Beau Bridges.
High Points: Meeting Politicians And Donations
And television appearances weren’t all the McClure family, and Baby Jessica had going for them after the rescue. They were also lucky enough to meet George H.W. Bush! Not only that, but donations were pouring in from around the world.
By the end of it, the family had collected around $1 million.
Low Points: Lots And Lots Of Surgeries
But where there is a high, there is a low, and for Baby Jessica, the lows had to do with the fact that she was stuck underground for two days. Being lodged in that well left her in need of surgeries.
Baby Jessica lost a toe to gangrene, a result of losing circulation. She also had to have her entire foot reconstructed and was left with a large scar on her face. In total, she had 15 surgeries.
Jessica Learned About Her Ordeal From A TV Show
The “good news” was that Jessica was way too young to remember the incident. It actually wasn’t until a few years later, on an episode of Rescue 9-1-1, that she saw her accident and asked her mother who the little girl in the well was.
Now, she understands what happened to her all those years ago and finally has a life outside of the spotlight.
Jessica Married Daniel Morales In 2006
In 2005, Jessica met Daniel Morales at the daycare where she worked. Before she knew it, the two were engaged. They said their vows on January 28, 2006, at the Church of Christ.
Amazingly, he had no clue about her fame. During an interview, Jessica said, “When my husband and I first started dating, he did not know who I was.”
She Received A $1 Million Inheritance
Now, Daniel and Jessica are the parents of two children, a son, and a daughter. Better yet was that in 2011, Jessica was handed over the trust fund of donations that were given in her name, a solid sum of $1 million.
It was enough money for the family to buy a home!
She Lives Two Miles Away From The Well
After all these years, Jessica shows how fearless and strong she truly is, as she and her husband decided to purchase a home not even three miles away from the infamous well she fell down as a toddler.
But she saved visiting the well for an important time in her life.
The 30th Anniversary Was Her First Visit To The Well
Now, Jessica lives a fairly ordinary life with her husband and children. While she lives very close to the place where her life changed forever, Jessica doesn’t feel a need to visit the spot on a day-to-day basis.
In fact, the first time she visits the well was on the 30th anniversary of her fall.
The Well Doesn’t Upset Her
During an interview with People, Jessica explained that seeing the well after so long was hard but empowering. She said, “Seeing the well for the first time…it was hard, but it wasn’t upsetting.”
“To me, it’s a symbol that it could’ve taken my life, but it didn’t.” Jessica is a survivor.