Danny Morales was 13 years old when his future wife's ordeal became a nationwide obsession
In October of 1987, Danny Morales was a 13-year-old kid in Garden City, Texas, about 37 miles from Midland. So when national news broke that a toddler was trapped in a well in Midland, his family sat enrapt, like many others.
“Danny does remember sitting and watching it,” says Jessica McClure Morales, the child who became known as “Baby Jessica” and later became Morales’ wife. Jessica’s story is featured on People Icons: Heroes & Survivors on Tuesday, March 14 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.
“[Danny] remembers his mom’s reaction about it,” Jessica, now 30, adds.
The Morales family was poor, but they were one of many families who donated to a trust fund as they watched the rescue unfold.
“She went and scrounged every penny she could find to send it to me,” Jessica says, adding that her future-husband “remembers sitting there with her as she held him tight, being thankful that she had them and that it wasn’t one of her kids.”
Danny, now 43, says the amount of money they sent wasn’t much, but his mother made sure to send it, along with a letter to the McClure family.
• For more on Baby Jessica’s harrowing tale of survival, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
“Somewhere in the midst of all the millions of things we got,” Jessica says, “there was probably a letter from them.”
The Friday Jessica was rescued, Danny was attending a football game in town.
“They stopped the whole game to say, ‘Baby Jessica has been rescued,'” he recalls. “It was pretty cool.”
And the following Monday at school, the good news was broadcast again.
“They announced it over the intercom, and everybody was crying,” he says.
• Tune in to People Icons: Heroes & Survivors on Tuesday, March 14 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC for more on these and other inspiring stories.
Danny and Jessica met in person in 2005 through his sister. At the time, he had no idea about her famous past, only realizing it after she kept getting stopped at every restaurant they visited.
“He was made specifically for me,” she says of her husband of 11 years.
The day they met, “my breath went away, and all I could see was the two of us together. I could see us having kids, I saw us old – my whole life with him flashed before my eyes. I instantly fell in love with him.”
• Watch the full episode of People Features: Baby Jessica 30 Years Later, March 8 on People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the app for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, Xfinity, iOS and Android devices.
Their biggest challenge these days, she says, “is financial, like everybody’s struggles. Just trying to get from Point A to Point B. But we don’t argue, we don’t sweat the small stuff and we kind of roll with the punches.
“We’re not a ‘looks can be deceiving’ kind of family,” she adds. “It’s a very happy life.”