View Full Version : 'Baby Jessica' All Grown Up

01-30-2006, 05:45 PM
'Baby Jessica' All Grown Up

MIDLAND, Texas, Jan. 30, 2006


(AP) "Baby Jessica," whose dramatic rescue from an abandoned Texas well was televised across the country 18 years ago, got married in a private ceremony, People magazine reported on its Web site.

Crews struggled for 58 hours to rescue Jessica McClure after she fell into a pipe in an old well in October 1987.

The celebrity magazine reported that McClure, now 19, married Daniel Morales, 32, at a rural church outside Midland on Saturday. A sign on the door instructed guests not to take pictures or video, the magazine said.

The two met at a day-care center where Morales' sister worked with McClure, according to the magazine.

The case of 18-month-old Jessica created a nationwide sensation. Emergency crews rescued her - a dramatic moment covered on live television - after digging a parallel shaft and then breaking through the wall of the well.


01-30-2006, 06:03 PM
'Baby Jessica' Marries Small -Town Sweetheart


Jessica McClure, at her 2004 high school graduation ceremony

MIDLAND, Texas – Jessica McClure, the toddler who captured the nation's heart and evoked its prayers 18 years ago from 22 feet below the surface of this oil patch town, is a married woman.

McClure – now 19 and a student at Midland College – was married Saturday to Daniel Morales, 32, at a Church of Christ in a small rural community outside of the town. The couple met at a day-care center where Morales’s sister worked with the bride.

Inside, the church sanctuary was decorated with loops of white tulle for the private afternoon ceremony. At the altar was a white archway, and suspended underneath were two open hearts, mirroring the interlocking hearts on the couple’s wedding invitation. Posted on the door was a request made to guests: "No Cameras or Picture Phones! No Video Cameras" – a message in step with the extremely private McClure family.

"She's always been that way, just laid-back and not a lot of fanfare," says Cedie Proctor, an aunt of Jessica’s.

McClure – known to the world as Baby Jessica – was 18 months old when she fell into a narrow, abandoned well in the back yard of her aunt's home in 1987. Within hours, scores of rescue workers were feverishly boring into the earth, hoping to reach her before she succumbed to the cold. After 58 hours and with a global audience, two paramedics plucked Jessica from the well and brought her to safety.

At 25, McClure stands to earn a trust fund reportedly valued in excess of $1 million, made up of contributions from well-wishers around the world.

"She's 'Baby Jessica,' everybody’s baby," Morales recently told PEOPLE.

Those who know McClure say she's a quiet person and that the family long ago decided to strongly resist attention for the famous event that occurred almost 20 years ago. One of the only clues to the impending wedding was a Wal-Mart registry.

"She hardly talked," says Abby Casas, who went to Greenwood County High School with Jessica, who graduated in 2004. "But everybody knew who she was."

http://people.aol.com/people/articles/0,19736,1154151,00.html (http://people.aol.com/people/articles/0,19736,1154151,00.html)

01-30-2006, 06:09 PM
'Everybody's Baby'

Midland rescuers remember saving 'Baby Jessica'

By D. Lance Lunsford
Staff Writer

It was 15 years ago today that rescuers took a collective sigh of relief after having worked 58 hours to free I8-month-old Jessica McClure from a well in the backyard of 3309 Tanner Drive. Today, reliving the event, helps many of those who took part in the rescue to cope with the aftermath. The test evoked in that 58-hour rescue revealed more about the men and women who worked at the scene than they knew about themselves. Their triumph also revealed the true spirit and heart of the small obscure West Texas town of which so-many people around the world had never heard.

The Response

Midland Police officer Andy Glasscock was the first to arrive on the scene, on the morning of Oct. 14, 1987. He heard the call during a meeting to review the MPD's new and enhanced 911 system. "I heard the call that there was possibly a girl stuck in a hole," Glasscock recalled 15 years later.
In route to the home, Glasscock could not have possibly fathomed what lie ahead of him.

"Basically, once I got there, I could not leave, because I could hear her little voice and knew there was a little child in that well," Glasscock said.

KMID cameraman Phil Huber (http://www.vidpros.com/phil.htm) was already taping footage. The child's mother, Reba "Cissy McClure, along with concerned neighbors, gathered at the site. Marie Petronella was one of those neighbors.

"Maxine (Sprague -- the neighbor next door to the home where Jessica fell in the well) called me," Ms. Petronella said. "She said that Jessica fell in the well. It all seemed so unreal. It was just like you are there, but it's not real."

Glasscock and fellow MPD Officer Manny Beltran began formulating a plan. First, a KMID microphone was lowered into the well to determine whether Jessica was still alive.

"We could hear her a little more plainly. She wasn't really crying and didn't really seem upset," Glasscock said. Part of the initial effort was finding a backhoe from a construction site.

"This was playing it all by ear," said Glasscock. "We didn't know how far down she was." Although it was used to dig, they first used its front end loader to remove the fence.

By early afternoon, little headway had been made, but the task may have seemed all too simple in the initial stages of the rescue.

"They told us it was going to be pretty quick that they would have her out of the well," said Lisa Wheeler, then a reporter for KCRS-AM.
Drilling for Jessica

But there was little luck with the backhoe, as officers soon found that Jessica may have slipped further down the well due to the backhoe's vibration. By 2 p.m. on that first day, officers and rescuers admitted they needed to take a different route.

"We decided we needed drill," Glasscock said. One of the officers at the scene, while in route, remembered seeing large auger drilling holes at the intersection of Andrews Highway and Loop 250.

"They basically told the guy (operating the auger) what was going on, and he pulled it out," Glasscock said.

Late that afternoon, the drill was working its way into what would become a 29-foot rescue shaft. City work crews lowered a camera, which was commonly used to inspect pipe seams, down the well to determine Jessica's condition. They found her with knees drawn up to her chest and face up in a 12- to 14-inch cavity.

And night approached. Cooler fall winds had slowly begun to make their mark on the arid West Texas plains, but so far, the benefit of an Indian summer gave rescuers hope for a warm night. Just in case, officials developed a makeshift tubing system to pump warm air and oxygen into the well by duct taping the tubing to a traffic cone.

The cover of night enveloped the rescuers for the first stretch of darkness with nonstop work continuing around the well.

"The lights made it eerie,"Glasscock recalled. "We never knew what was going on in the world. You never realized time until the end."

The world keeps turning

And the world was still going on with its daily grind. Many of the firefighters still around today have no recognition of an experience surrounding the well. That's because they were carrying on the daily duties of the Midland Fire Department.

Vaughn Donaldson, then a firefighter-paramedic, said he responded in the normal avenues of service during the Jessica rescue.

"I was doing the basic stuff we do every day," Donaldson said. "A lot of people forget, the show must go on. That was something we kind of forgot. There was all sorts of things going on."

Indeed, the behind-the-scenes effort may have contributed more to Jessica's rescue than anyone could have imagined. Paul Hallmark worked in the Midland County Sheriff's Office dispatch center as a communications supervisor.

"They started calling for extra help with crowd control and blocking streets," said Hallmark, who helped reached reserve deputies, warrant deputies and criminal investigation division deputies. "The cool thing was all the people you could call up with a major crisis and they would just say they would take care of it."

Hallmark reached key players in the effort to gather rescue equipment andpersonnel, including prominent Midlanders Clayton Williams and Bobby Holt.

"They would say, "Hey, we need a flatbed truck, can you make some'calls?" Instead of computers, we had two or three clipboards laying around," said Hallmark. By the middle of that afternoon, we had a list of companies and resources."

Eddie Klatt, now assistant fire chief of the MFD, was a battalion chief at the time. He helped man phones in dispatch and kept the daily duties working like a well-oiled machine.

"We got every kind of call imaginable," Klatt said. "Some people had some really good ideas."

Among those specialists called in by Thursday was Dave Lilly, an official with the U.S. Bureau of Mines, who was flown in from Carlsbad, N.M. to help facilitate the rescue as a new tunnel was drilled diagonally from the rescue shaft.

As rescuers get closer

By Friday morning, at approximately 4:30 a.m, Lilly broke through the wall of the well. Jessica seemed aware of what was going on throughout the effort taking place.

"She's making a lot of noise we made her really mad," Offiecr Jim White, an MPD spokesman, told the Reporter Telegram early Friday, Oct. 16;

Lilly's breakthrough was almost accidental. He leaned into the wall, not expecting a breakthrough, when the wall finally gave.

"That's when they brought in the hydrodrill," Glasscock said. "They tried to work Robert (O'Donnell) farther in. They had to keep widening the hole. When they finally did get in there, she was just so wedged in there, he couldn't just pull her out."

Around hour 50, O'Donnell emerged from the rescue shaft having fallen short of the rescue. "When he came out, he was crying his eyes out," Donaldson said.

The behind-the-scenes effort was perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments and signs of a successful and empowered Midland community. Even Glasscock' s wife, Lynn Glasscock - who was and is a nurse - worked with rescuers.

"She ended up having to go to the pharmacy and getting all the KY Jelly they had," Glasscock said.

Near the end of the rescue, as O'Donnell worked to reach Jessica' s feet and unwedge her, rescuers used the lubricant. O'Donnell continued to use the hydrodrill to chip away the hard caliche that rescuers still refer to as "prehistoric concrete."

At approximately 8 p.m., MFD firefighter paramedic Steve Forbes rose slowly from the rescue shaft with 18-month-old Jessica McClure in his arms. Her head bandaged, her right palm immobilized to her face, Jessica was quiet and calm as officials rushed. her away and into an ambulance waiting in the alley behind Tanner Drive.

Those who sacrificed

The men and women who stayed by that hole for 58 hours would be impacted more than they ever imagined, and for one -- Robert O'Donnell - his friends said, he never emotionally was able to come out of the well. Years after the rescue, he would take his own life.

Steve Forbes is still a firefighter in Midland. Offficer Andy Glassock is still aa officer with the Midland Police Department and lives in Greenwood -- two blocks away from Jessica McClure. Paul Hallmark is now the technical investigations advisor for the Midland County Sheriff's Office. Eddie Klatt is now the assistant fire chief for the MFD. Officer Jim White still patrols the streets with the MPD. Vaughn Donaldson is now a district chief of aircraft rescue firefighters and stationed at Midland international Airport.

Cissy and Chip McClure divorced in 1990. Both have since remarried. Chip lives in Plano, and has another daughter named Christi. In 1997, he released a book he co-wrote called "Halo Over the City." Cissy has also remarried. Jessica is 16 years old and a junior at Midland Christian High School.

Classcock, who has remained a longtime family friend of the McClures, said, "Now, her only worries are grades and boys."


01-30-2006, 06:10 PM
Tragedy of forgotten victim lingers, reveals lesson learned

By D. Lance Lunsford
Staff Writer
It may be difficult for some to understand what would drive a man considered a hero to kill himself.

But the men of the Midland Fire Department who saw their friend rise to fame as a worldwide hero do understand, and they work today to keep the same from ever happening again.

The events surrounding the life and death of Robert O'Donnell, the man who pulled Jessica McClure from the well, are more important now than ever as new heroes are found every day especially in the aftermath of 9-11.

"There were some tragedies, also," said MFD Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Klatt, a battalion chief at the time, who compared the two heroes of the Jessica rescue: O'Donnell and Steve Forbls. "Those two people were total opposites, personality wise, in how they handled the situation. One (Forbes) shunned the fanfare, and one (O'Donnell) enjoyed it to the utmost."

In many ways, friends said, O'Donnell never recovered from the injuries he sustained during the rescue and aftermath of the Jessica McClure event. Many consider him the single and forgotten casualty in the rescue of the 18-month-old girl.

Vaughn Donaldson, who at the time served as a firefighter-paramedic with the MidlandFire Department, was also a friend of O'Donnell.

"When we're elevated to that hero status, that's too much to live up to," Donaldson said.

Soon after O'Donnell's own emergence from the shaft, he was overwhelmed by the news media, who searched for a hero to relate to the event. As O Donnell was placed upon the shoulders of a collective America, he soon became subservient to the world's influence, who looked at him as a hero. Donaldson's, wife, Robbie Donaldson, watched her husband evolve in the aftermath as members of the media asked for interviews, people offered money, and O'Donnell joined the speaker's circuit. "He didn't expect it (hero status) either, but if you hear things enough times, you begin to believe it even though may or may not be true," Ms. O'Donnell said in a Discovery Channel program, "Jessica.McClure -- What Happened After?"

And O'Donnell soon developed what has been called acute post traumatic stress disorder.

The adrenaline built throughout the rescue and it coupled with attention he received following the rescue, according to friends, As the adrenaline surged through his system, his body built a craving, and he had to feel a rush all of the time, those friends and co-workers noted.

"I think Robert was stuck in that event," Donaldson said. "And as long as it was built up, he was fine, but when the attention went away, he couldn't handle it. I don't think Robert ever got out of that well."

Others understand.

Police officer Andy Glasscock was-the first officer to respond to the well on Oct. 14, 1987. From that point on, he remained by the well with the exception of a few hours where he tried to get some sleep. Instead he tossed and turned, trying to fight off the adrenaline that had built in his body for so long.

"It' s almost like cocaine or heroin ... it' s addicting. I had to have more of it," Glasscock acknowledged years later. "That adrenaline rush was addictive like a drug."

Even Glasscock saw there was something wrong with O'Donnell as the years went by. Donaldson, himself, admits that he virtually ignored O'Donnell as he reached out for help.

"This is not something we, as a department, are proud of," said Donaldson. "It was the way we treated Robert after that incident."

O'Donnell, who already had to carry a black duffel bag full of the prescription medication he used to bout the depression, reached out for help, He told people like Donaldson that he thought of killing himself.

"In a way, I felt really guilty that we weren't more educated. We all knew Robert was having a hard time. He asked me for help," said Donaldson. "The advice I had for him was not adquate."

Glasscock, while battling with his own depression and need for adrenaline and impact, almost lost his marriage at that time. He too saw O'Donnell and feels the pain of not knowing how to help.

"We were just a couple of good old West Texas boys, who did their job. In the end, we never saw what was coming," Glasscock said. "It nearly cost me a divorce. I had a really good wife who stuck with me."

But the pressure and need O'Donnell felt compounded exponentially with each passing day. Eventually, he gave up.

Just six days after the OklahoIlla City bombing of the Alfred Murrah building in April of 1995, O'Donnell drove to a remote part of his mother' s ranch and shot himself, leaving behind two sons and his wife.

Today, it is something that may be averted with more understanding. The first suicide casualty of the September 11th attacks has already made its mark, and Donaldson and other emergency response personnel are worried more are to come.

Donaldson now travels the country warning of the dangers of post traumatic stress. The importance quite possibly has never been greater as America's vulnerability may bring otherwise obscure Americans to hero status in the near future should the country continue falling victim to terrorist attacks.

01-30-2006, 06:11 PM
Press personnel deal with aftermath

By D. Lance Lunsford
Staff Writer

In those last nine and a half hours before rescuers arose from the depths of a dark 25- foot rescue shaft, the world sat on the edge of its seat.

The reporters who brought the story from the back yard at 3309 Tanner Drive stood within feet of the work of rescuers, waiting to relay the jubilant news of the rescue of 18-month-old Jessica McClure.

While it seemed the end was near, many people at the scene grew skeptical each time reports came that Jessica would soon emerge from the well. Each time, it turned out to be a false alarm. In those final nine hours, reporters, police, firefighters and EMS personnel waited ... and waited and waited.

KMID's Rodney Wunsch, then 22, reported from the scene for most of those 58 hours, first arriving on the scene at approximately 1 p.m. Wednesday, October 14, 1987. By Friday, fatigue and frustration seemingly overwhelmed him.

Lisa Wheeler, who was a radio reporter with KCRS-AM, first arrived on the scene Wednesday just moments after the arrival of police. By Friday, she stood atop a truck with Ramona Nye, a reporter for the Reporter Telegram, in the alley where emergency crews would soon whisk Jessica from the scene to Midland Memorial Hospital. "As the days turned into night, I found myself sleeping in Maxine Sprague's back yard using a rock as a pillow," Ms. Wheeler recalled.

But as it seemed imminent that Jessica would emerge, somewhere around 8 p.m. Friday night, Midlanders and the World braced for joy. Throngs of Midlanders awaited the news at Memorial Stadium, having momentarily escaped the stress of Jessica' s struggle in the well by attending a high school football game. Rick Wood, sales manager for KMID-TV, was one of those in the stands. He watched the game with a radio in hand, tuned to the coverage of the rescue.

"When we knew she was coming up, one of the police officers came over and said, "This is it," said Ms. Wheeler.

Slowly, the rigging moved over the rescue shaft, and the ropes connected to the carabiner on Steve Forbes' harness began pulling the Midland Fire Department firefighter-paramedic to the surface.

"At first, it was very spookily quiet," Said Wunsch, who watched a monitor in the Spragues' backyard. "Watching the shaft, you start to see this cable come up."

Rising to the surface Forbes held Jessica in his arms, who was strapped to a backboard.

At the bottom of the shaft, left 29 feet at the bottom of the well was Robert O'Donnell. He had worked to free Jessica for hours after being hand-picked as the man to reach the little girl based on his wiry frame.

The Reporter-TeIegram's Curt Wilcott, who had been perched atop an A-frame ladder for nine hours waiting for Jessica to emerge looked over his left shoulder. Atop a manlift, more than 20 feet in the air, was Scott Shaw, the photographer with the Odessa-American with a bird's-eye view. The fence where his ladder was stretched was bulging and leaning as other photographers - from international agencies, newspapers and television stations -- waited for the perfect shot.

Wilcott aimed his lens as Forbes' head came into view. Her head bandaged in white gauze and her left hand set in place along her cheek, a calming hush fell over the crowd for a brief second.

Then a thumbs-up went into the air. And the rescuers converged, rushing foward.

"The drawback was when they actually brought her out, all these people were standing around," Wilcott said. "A lot of the shots were of backs."

Wilcott, however, was able to get off one shot.

Shaw, on the other hand, had an ideal vantage point.

"From his vantage point, he was able to capture her face," Wilcott said.

Shaw later won the Pulitzer Prize for his photo.

In a swift movement, Forbes was disconnected from the cable and, while holding Jessica in his arms, was rushed off to an ambulance waiting in the alley. Midland Police Officer Andy Glasscock, the first officer on the scene, was bit by the Spragues' fence, which finally gave way. "I fell to my knees and started crying," Glasscock said. " about that time, the reporters hit the fence, and they pushed the fence over on me.

"When she was pulled out, the ambulance left, and I was running down the alley," said John Foster, then the general manager of KMID-TV, who was at the scene for most of the rescue effort. "All of a sudden, all of these horns went off. The whole town was responding."

Indeed, the whole town felt triumph. The collective spirit of the city converged in a matter of moments as word spread from around that little back yard where lights kept the area lit like day.

Wood, still listening to the coverage by radio at the football game, heard news come across the airwaves that Jessica was free.

"I was in the stands. All of a sudden, it went quiet. It still gets to you," he said. "It got real quiet, and the hems started in the distance."

The crowd erupted with joyous applause as news came across Memorial Stadium's speakers that Jessica was pulled from the well.

"For some unknown reason, I started crying," said Ms. Wheeler.

"When the emotion hit me was when they brought her up," Wunsch said.

The work was not done, however.

"It got really surreal. It was like air was let out of a balloon. This tension in the air and this fatigue ran over everyone" said Wunsch. "They wanted me to do a chronological wrap-up. I couldn't do it. I just went on the air and fumbled for like a minute and a half."

Wunsch walked over to the rescue shaft where O'Donnell had just been retrieved.

"I looked down into the hole, which wasn't lit, and it just went into this empty abyss," said Wunsch.

Soon, the world's media converged on the rescue's most prominent heroes. Among them were Forbes, O'Donnell and Glasscock.

Just moments after O'Donnell emerged from the shaft, Jessica was already well on her way to Midland Memorial Hospital, and he spoke on camera for KMID.

"Everybody that pitched in, I don't care what they did anywhere else in the nation, the hours it took to get her out of there, we got her out of there alive. It was all worth it," said O'Donnell.

For a brief moment, O'Donnell did not believe the hype of the limelight.

And the story was not over just because this little girl had been rescued. It was, in many ways, just beginning.

The backyard where the rescue ended late that Friday night was like a war zone. The fence had been removed in the initial stages of the rescue, and the fence to the Spagues yard lay tattered and broken. Equipment was everywhere, and the men who had worked for three days began rolling cable and packing tools.

Tn the aftermath were thousands -- possibly millions -- of dollars in donations to the McClures to help with medical bills. KMID's studios were covered in Winnie the Pooh bears and gifts. The money began flowing into KMID so much, Foster and KMID officials established an account for Jessica.

"People were wanting to know how they could help. That's why we did that," said Kathy Swindler, KMID promotions manager.

The rescue of Jessica McClure launched the image of hundreds of heroes at the scene, but Forbes, O'Donnell, and Glasscock may have taken the brunt of focus. The rush from the onslaught of media attention supplied the men with a sustained adrenaline, which eventually became dangerous, and in one case fatal.

Today, Rodney Wunsch works for Access Hollywood and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He stayed in Midland for another year with KMID before heading to California. He eventually played himself in the made-for-television film depicting the rescue of Jessica McClure after being sought out by the movie's producer in Los Angeles.

Patrick Crimmins, the former Reporter-Telegram reporter who was the first print joumalist on the scene, works in the public information division of the Texas Commission Environmental Quality and lives in Austin. Ramona Nye works for the Texas Department of Agriculture in Austin. Curt Wilcott took over his father' s Sign company in Odessain 1996.

Lisa Wheeler now works for Texas Parks and Wildlife in Austin.

John Foster is now the general manager of KWES-TV. Rick Wood is now sales manager for KWES-TV. Kathy Swindler is promotions manager for KWES-TV.

01-30-2006, 06:13 PM

Wednesday October 14th, 1987 --9:30 AM CST through Friday October 16th, 1987--8:30 PM CST



01-30-2006, 08:33 PM
Wedding Registry

Welcome to JESSICA MCCLURE's and DANIEL MORALES's Wedding Registry!

January 28, 2006


01-31-2006, 08:04 AM
Thank you for the updates, RP! I remember the Jessica McClure story quite well, but never kept up with it. Interesting how it negatively affected so many. :(

02-20-2006, 12:25 PM
I read this in a magazine I couldn't belive how long ago that she fell in the well .Boy I feel old