World & Nation

Baby Jessica rescue: 25 years ago today, the nation celebrated

It was Oct. 16, 1987, when a toddler who would become known as Baby Jessica was pulled from a Texas well and cheers erupted throughout the country.

Events that unite a nation -- particularly those with a happy ending -- are rare, and the rescue of Jessica McClure, 18 months, was one of those.

As the Los Angeles Times wrote at the time, hundreds of bone-weary rescuers and onlookers cheered in triumph when the girl was pulled out of an abandoned well after a 58 1/2-hour ordeal.

PHOTOS: Baby Jessica, 25 years later


The girl fell into the well at 9:30 a.m. on a Wednesday while playing with two other children in the backyard of the McClures’ modest frame home in Midland.

The tension and fear, as well as the media presence, mounted as rescuers were unable to free Jessica from the well. 

Workers dug a shaft parallel to the old water well.  Then it was only a matter of linking from the shaft to the well and pulling Jessica free. But the rock layer surrounding the well proved to be an obstacle.

Rescuers spoke to the child, who at one point was singing nursery rhymes.


A drill that used water pressure to cut through rock was shipped to the site from Houston. The “water knife” cut digging time drastically.  When the toddler fell, her right leg became wedged alongside her body in the narrow crevice, pushing her foot next to her head.

Doctors on the scene feared that sending down food and drink could be harmful if she were injured or might cause her to choke. As the hours dragged on, and TV coverage drew in viewers, people began to fear the child wouldn’t survive.

But on the evening of the third day, crane operators very carefully raised her from below ground.

Today, Jessica McClure is Jessica McClure Morales, 26 years old and married.


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