20 Years After Rescue, Baby Jessica Raising A Son, Waiting To Collect Fund Worth $1 Million
Wednesday, October 17th 2007, 7:31 am
By: News On 6
MIDLAND, Texas (AP) _ The 18-month old girl pulled from a backyard well two decades ago is now a young wife and mother _ one waiting to collect donations given to her during her ordeal that are expected to total $1 million or more.
The anniversary of Jessica McClure's rescue passed Tuesday like almost every other day in the 21-year-old's life, with no public comment from her about the event that once captivated viewers around the world.
The young wife and mother is living quietly in this West Texas oil patch city, the same one where she fell into the backyard well.
``Jessica's just been a wonderful, wonderful mother,'' said her father, Chip McClure. ``That's always been Jessica's dream, to be a stay-at-home mom.''
In 3 1/2 years, however, her quiet existence might change when all the donations sent to her when she was a baby mature into a payment of $1 million or more.
Many of the sympathetic strangers who remained glued to television coverage until Jessica was freed from 22 feet below the ground showered her family with teddy bears, homemade gifts, cards and cash. It will remain in a trust fund until she turns 25.
Her father says Jessica is a happy and active woman, and doing ``all the normal stuff'' with her year-old son, Simon.
A woman who answered the phone at a listing for Jessica McClure's husband, Daniel Morales, identified herself as Jessica but told an Associated Press reporter she had reached a wrong number.
Richardo Morales, Simon's uncle, said Jessica has talked about the windfall and has plans ``to put it into a fund for Simon.''
In 1987, Chip and Cissy McClure were poor teenagers struggling to make ends meet during the depths of the oil bust. Cissy McClure left Jessica in her sister's yard while she went to answer the phone. Moments later, Jessica happened upon an 8-inch hole and innocently touched off a global event.
When rescuers brought her to the surface 2 1/2 days later, her head was bandaged, she was covered with dirt and bruises and her right palm was immobilized to her face. The image was ingrained in millions of people's memories and won a Pulitzer Prize for Odessa American photographer Scott Shaw.
A poll taken by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in 1997 that measured coverage of Princess Diana's death earlier that year found that in the previous decade, only Jessica's rescue rivaled the Paris car accident in worldwide attention.
Chip McClure remembers being ``absolutely floored'' by the media coverage once the family got to the hospital with Jessica. Vice President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, former Midland residents, visited. President Ronald Reagan called.
``It's a little surreal,'' Chip McClure said about the passage of so many years. ``It's difficult to comprehend.''
About three years after the TV cameras left Midland, Chip and Cissy divorced. Each has remarried.
Throughout their daughter's childhood, they worked to give her a normal life.
``At the end of the day, she went through a lot, and was loved by millions and millions,'' said Chip McClure, 38, who sells real estate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Jessica has no memory of the ordeal, the loss of part of one foot, and the 15 operations that followed the 2 1/2 days she spent wedged all alone in the well, singing about Winnie the Pooh.
Jessica talks often about having another child, Chip McClure said.
``We encourage her to wait a little while,'' he said.
Chip McClure said that he and Jessica's mother allowed their daughter to decide whether to talk to the media once she got old enough. Jessica has spoken publicly only twice since 1987.
In June, Jessica told NBC that the ordeal ``couldn't cage me then, why should it cage me now?''
In 2002, she told Ladies Home Journal that talk of her ``incident'' bored her and referred to the scars she bore.
``I'm proud of them,'' she said. ``I have them because I survived.''
Richardo Morales said the rescue still comes up, but with a touch of humor.
``There's times when we sit down and talk about it,'' he said. ``We'll be saying, 'Watch out, there's a well.'''
Life didn't turn out as smoothly for others involved in the toddler's rescue.
In 1995, paramedic and rescuer Robert O'Donnell, who wriggled into the passageway and slathered a frightened Jessica in petroleum jelly before sliding her out into the bright television lights, shot and killed himself at his parents' ranch outside Midland.
His brother, Rick, has said O'Donnell's life ``fell apart'' because of the stress of the rescue, the attention it created and the anticlimactic return to everyday life.
In 2004, William Andrew Glasscock Jr., a former Midland police officer who helped in the rescue, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on charges of sexual exploitation of a child and improper storage of explosives. A year later, he was sentenced to 20 years on two state charges of sexual assault.
Meanwhile, Jessica graduated from high school in Greenwood, not far from Midland, and married Daniel Morales, 34, in early 2006.