After 25 years, “Baby Jessica” McClure rescue still tugs at heart strings

It was 25 years ago today that rescuers were finally able to lift then-18-month-old Jessica McClure safely from the abandoned water well into which she had fallen. The story captured the attention of the media and the world as her rescue unfolded through tears of excitement and hope in the West Texas town of Midland and living rooms of news watchers everywhere.

The toddler tumbled into the well’s 8-inch opening while playing in her aunt’s backyard on the morning of October 14, 1987, and came to a stop wedged in a space about a foot wide 22 feet underground.

Responders and camera crews swarmed the surface over the well as what has been called a “media circus” materialized around the potentially tragic situation.

Rescue efforts were hampered by a layer of hard rock that destroyed bit after bit as rescue crews drilled a parallel shaft to reach the young girl. A water drill was finally brought in to drill with a force of 30,000 pounds per square inch to complete a 24-by-36 horizontal shaft to reach the child.

When the girl was finally pulled to the surface, she had to be hospitalized for dehydration and gangrene that claimed a small toe.

While it is easy to point to successful rescues and cheer the success of communities coming together to the aid of an innocent victim, it is more difficult to consider the implications for everyday safety choices that such stories bring.

Everyday safety choices ensure well openings are adequately secured. Everyday safety choices keep children from potentially hazardous locations.

By the time the media circus erupted to bring Baby Jessica’s plight to the public’s attention, the choices were already made. While tragedy was averted by dedicated rescuers, a few minutes of effort any time before the accident could have secured the hazard and prevented an incident altogether.

   

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