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Daughter’s Fall Is Second Trauma For Family This Year

October 17, 1987

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) _ Millions watched on television, rejoicing as 18-month-old Jessica McClure was rescued from 2 1/2 days underground, but nowhere was there more joy than among the toddler’s grandfather, aunts and uncles.

″We feel absolutely wonderful,″ Jessica’s aunt, Donna Johnson, said of Friday night’s happy ending to the family’s second traumatic event this year.

When his older brother Rod died with AIDS earlier this year, family members hoped the pain was over for Chip McClure and his wife, Reba. But there was fresh misery Wednesday morning when their tiny daughter fell into a well.

″When I heard this news, I thought to myself, ’I can’t believe this. This can’t be happening,‴ said Chip’s sister, Ceidi Proctor.

Chip, 18, and Reba, 17, married 2 1/2 years ago. Both dropped out of high school but have since earned high school equivalency diplomas. Chip works as a house painter.

″They are real sweet kids,″ said neighbor Margie Lunsford. ″She is an excellent mother.″

The McClures live in an apartment in a working-class neighborhood near the home of an aunt, where Jessica fell into the 8-inch-wide well opening.

Reba McClure was particularly tormented during the ordeal because she was in the house when Jessica fell into the well, Ms. Proctor said.

″She keeps saying, ‘I was only gone for five minutes.’ She either went to answer the telephone or go to the bathroom, and she thought the children were perfectly safe because the yard was fenced in,″ said Ms. Proctor.

″They’ve come through a lot,″ she said. ″Chip got a job and they have their own apartment. And now to have this happen to them.″

″In similar situations, parents often become over-protective of their child,″ said Sam Hooper, a Midland psychologist. ″They’ll probably experience fatigue and a lack of interest in what’s going on around them.″

Chip is the youngest of four children. His mother died of cancer when he was 5 years old.

″Our mother really fought her illness before she died,″ said Chip’s sister, Ms. Johnson. ″She was a tough woman. Jessica is from tough stock and comes by her fighting spirit honestly. I think Chipper is a fighter, too.″

While Reba and Chip McClure have been reclusive, other family members talked openly with reporters, and brought up their feelings about the May 8 death at age 32 of Rod McClure, who they said had the disease that cripples the body’s immune system.

″It just doesn’t seem fair. We thought after Roddy died nothing more bad would happen for a while,″ Ms. Johnson said.

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