News Nostalgia: Let’s Talk About Baby Jessica

Have you heard about Baby Jessica? In 1987, she might have been America’s biggest child star. But her fame didn’t come from a reality show, or heck – even talent. Baby Jessica was known for falling down a well at the age of 18 months. The well was in her Aunt’s backyard, in Midland, Texas.

Jessica was born to teenage parents, Reba “Cissy” McClure and Lewis “Chip” McClure, who had fallen on hard times in the depths of the Texas oil bust. Jessica’s Aunt ran a daycare center out of her home, where Jessica was playing with four other children outside. While Cissy was watching the kids, she momentarily left to take a phone call – and rushed back out immediately, after hearing other kids screaming.

Jessica fell on October 14th, and between then and October 16th, rescuers worked for 58 hours to free her. Not only was she beneath layers of rock, but the diameter of the well was narrow enough to make the rescue attempt difficult. Unlikely heroes emerged, such as local contractor Ron Short, who was born without collar bones based on a physical disorder – which could allow him to collapse his shoulders to work in cramped corners. While he arrived at the site and offered to go down the shaft, he wasn’t needed for the rescue.

The story was soon picked up nationally, and CNN ran around-the-clock coverage of the rescue attempt. Eventually she was freed with a rat-hole rig, which is a machine typically used to plant telephone poles. Their plan was to drill a horizontal tunnel between the two wells about two feet below where Baby Jessica was trapped, while simultaneously pumping oxygen in the well and making sure Jessica was still conscious.

Jessica calmed herself down by singing nursery rhymes during the rescue, both to herself and to the team. After the rescue, donations poured in – ranging from money, to toys, to cards wishing her well. Based on the extensive coverage, she had everyone rooting for her.

Because she was without food and water for days in the environment she was in, Jessica had to undergo 15 surgeries. The only lasting scars were a case of rheumatoid arthritis that was diagnosed later in life, a missing toe on her right foot which was lost due to gangrene, and a scar from her hairline to the bridge of her nose, which remains partially visible.

Since, Jessica has had a normal life. She’s currently married with two children of her own, and plans on using the trust fund money she gained from the donations (which she was able to access on her 25th birthday) on her children’s education.

She’s a stay-at-home Mom, and her and her husband run a mobile car- and truck-washing business out of their home. Jessica doesn’t remember the event, and has actually stated to Ladies Home Journal that while she was proud of the scars (”I have them because I survived’) talking about the event “bored” her. In total, she’s only spoken about the incident three times to the media.

How would you feel if you were Baby Jessica? Are you surprised of the media attention and incredible amount of emotion that came from the live coverage?

Photo Credits: (featured) (Jessica)

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