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March 26, 1986
Midland, Texas, U.S.
|Other names||Jessica McClure Morales|
|Known for||Falling into a well at 18 months old|
|Spouse(s)||Daniel Morales (m. 2006; div. 2017)|
Jessica McClure Morales (born March 26, 1986) became famous on October 14, 1987, at the age of 18 months after she fell into a well in her aunt's backyard in Midland, Texas. Between that day and October 16, rescuers worked for 58 consecutive 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 ABC television movie Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure. As presented in the film, the relatively new technology of waterjet cutting was a vital part of the rescue.
McClure's rescue proved to be a much more difficult ordeal than was first anticipated. Within hours of beginning the emergency procedure, the Midland Fire and Police Departments devised a plan that involved drilling another shaft parallel to the well and then drilling a tunnel at a right angle across to it. Enlisting the help of a variety of local (often out-of-work) oil-drillers, the Midland officials had hoped to free McClure in minutes. However, the first workers to arrive on the scene found their tools barely adequate to penetrate the hard rock around the well. It took about six hours to drill the shaft and longer to drill the tunnel, because the jackhammers used were designed for drilling downward, rather than sideways. A mining engineer eventually arrived to help supervise and coordinate the rescue effort. TV viewers watched as paramedics and rescuers, drilling experts and contractors worked tirelessly to save the baby’s life. Meanwhile, they were reassured when they heard Jessica singing “Winnie the Pooh” from deep in the well. As long as she was still singing, they knew she was still alive. Forty-five hours after McClure fell into the well, the shaft and tunnel were finally completed.
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 considered his offer, but did not use it. One report said that he helped to clear tunneling debris away.
Midland Fire Department paramedic Robert O'Donnell was ultimately able to inch his way into the tunnel and wrestle McClure free from the confines of the well, handing her to fellow paramedic Steve Forbes, who carried her up to safety.
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 of 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. In some cases, they shared their own insight into this and similar incidents.
In 1988, McClure and her parents appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee to talk about the incident.
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.
Following McClure's rescue on October 16, 1987, surgeons had to amputate a toe due to gangrene from loss of circulation while she was in the well. She also has a scar on her forehead where her head rubbed against the well casing. She had 15 surgeries over the years and has no first-hand memory of the event. Her parents divorced a few years after the rescue.
Paramedic Robert O'Donnell, battling posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of the arduous rescue effort and struggling to cope with the abrupt decline of the fame and recognition that had been lavished on him following his heroic act, committed suicide in 1995.
McClure graduated from Greenwood High School, in a small community near Midland, in May 2004. On January 28, 2006, nineteen-year-old McClure married Daniel Morales at Church of Christ in Notrees, Texas, about 40 miles from Midland. They met at a day care center where she worked with his sister. They have two children and have since divorced.
When McClure turned 25 on March 26, 2011, 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 incident.
Television viewers watched as hundreds of paramedics, rescuers, drilling experts and contractors feverishly worked to save the baby’s life. Meanwhile, they were reassured when they heard Jessica singing “Winnie the Pooh” from deep in the well. As long as she was singing, she was still alive.