Baby Jessica 30 Years Later: Her Quiet Life out of the Spotlight as a Wife and Mom
Jessica McClure Morales opens up to PEOPLE about her life now, as a wife and mother, 30 years after she was rescued from a well in Texas
Sitting in class at her elementary school in Midland, Texas, 7-year-old Sheyenne Morales was recently given a one-sentence prompt for an assignment: “Nobody knows this about me.”
Sheyenne was quick with her answer. She said, “Nobody knows about me that my mom is Baby Jessica.”
Her mother, Jessica McClure Morales, is indeed the woman whose fate, as an 18-month-old, transfixed the nation in October 1987, after she’d fallen 22 feet into a small well in her aunt’s backyard in Midland.
It took 58 hours — with no food or water — before she was finally brought back to the surface, amid cheers from rescuers and CNN viewers across the country.
Morales, now 30, tells PEOPLE that when Sheyenne made the announcement at school about her mom, “Her teacher put a video on to show the other little 7-year-olds who Baby Jessica is.”
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“Her teacher knew all about it,” Morales says, “but the other kids didn’t know what she was talking about.”
Since then, Sheyenne and her 9-year-old brother, Simon, have watched some of the footage of their mom being saved on YouTube.
“I was, like, crying,” Sheyenne says of the videos.
“She had the bandages and the rag on her head,” Simon adds. “It took them two and a half days. It’s amazing that she survived.”
In the decades since she was pulled from the well, Morales has resisted fame, up to and including her low-key wedding in 2006. (At 25, she gained access to a trust fund full of donations from well-wishers made in the wake of her rescue.)
Apart from the recognition that has always been linked to the name “Baby Jessica,” Morales hopes her children will also learn from some of the downsides she experienced while growing up.
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“There were a few times I was picked on specifically for being ‘Baby Jessica,’ ” she tells PEOPLE. “I had a kid that called me ‘well-dweller’ for a good couple of years.”
“Kids are blunt; they say what’s on their minds,” she says. “Especially when everybody in the world is like, ‘Oh, Baby Jessica’s got money,’ and I wore hand-me-downs.”
Of the bullying, Morales says, “That part of my life made me the kind of mom that I am: to express to my kids that it’s not right. My kids have good hearts.”
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These days, a typical weekend at the Morales home is all about family: Husband Danny, 43, might be tinkering in his man-cave out back, while the kids play in the treehouse he built for them.
As for Jessica, she says she sometimes reflects on her life and the accident that could have ended it so early.
Looking around at her home and happy family, she says, “Had I not survived, none of this would have been.”
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