On October 14, 2022, we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the amazing rescue of baby Jessica. Jessica McClure Morales She was only 18 months old when she fell 22 feet from an abandoned well in her aunt’s backyard in Midland, Texas. Rescuers worked for 58 hours to successfully retrieve the child from the deep well. The story garnered worldwide attention and even turned into a made-for-TV movie, Everybody’s Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure.
From local firefighter to national hero
When the world prepared to witness the incredible incident thirty years ago, they saw paramedic Robert O’Donnell rescuing baby Jessica. O’Donnell was chosen because of his short frame to shove down the small rescue shaft parallel to the well. However, the shaft was so short that O’Donnell entered head first and descended the narrow tunnel on his back.
Actor Whip Hubley, who spoke with O’Donnell after he was cast to play the firefighter in the television film, said, “He told me it was just troubling there… claustrophobia, the physical feeling on your chest.” Pressure.” “You really felt like you were in the grave.”
On 16 October 1987, 58 hours after the start of the rescue, the paramedic freed the child from the well. The entire nation celebrated, as well as spectators around the world watching the remarkable rescue. O’Donnell went from a local firefighter to a world-renowned hero overnight. She was even cast as a reporter in the television film about the rescue of baby Jessica. However, O’Donnell could neither escape fame nor escape that trauma from that life-altering rescue.
forever branded as rescuer of baby jessica
A veteran firefighter, O’Donnell was no stranger to troubling rescues. “I’ve saved other people’s lives before,” he shared in an interview People, “But nothing like this will ever happen again.”
As it turned out, O’Donnell was right. The famous rescue was life changing not only for the child but also for the paramedic. Although O’Donnell was happy to share his story in interviews and talk shows, the limelight quickly faded. Once his fifteen minutes of fame ended, the paramedic had a hard time returning to his way of life before a surprise rescue. He divorced his wife in 1991. Then the next year he left the Midland Fire Department.
Over time, being branded as baby Jessica’s rescuer became too much for O’Donnell. On April 23, 1995, O’Donnell tragically succumbed to a stroke and took his own life. As the 35th anniversary of the rescue draws near, we remember O’Donnell for the life-changing role he played in baby Jessica’s life, but also for all the other lives he saved as a firefighter.