|Chip says he was a teenager "shy to the point of being incapacitated" |
when he had to give a national press conference during Jessica's ordeal.
Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure can be found on Netflix streaming, Amazon and Youtube.
Realitytvkids.com: The coverage of baby Jessica was one of America's first pseudo "reality" shows. At what point did you become aware of how big the story was and how famous your daughter was, and what was that realization like?
Chip: I was standing in Jessica’s hospital room the night we got her out. It was a surreal moment, it had been so intense. We were so focused on getting her back alive that we didn’t really give any thought to what it would be like when it was over. So, here the three of us are, Jessica is lying in her bed, Cissy lying beside her. I’m standing there with my hands in my pocket. Relief setting in and the adrenaline wearing off. I did what anyone would do, I turned on the T.V. There just happened to be a story about Jessica. Well, that’s cool, I remember thinking. This is on T.V! So, I changed the channel. Much to my surprise she was on that channel too. Fifty-seven channels and there’s nothing on except Jessica’s rescue. That’s when I first knew how big the story was.
The money was set up in a trust fund for Jessica, it provided for her necessities and education as she grew up. When she turned 25 years old the money was released to her control. We did use a portion of the funds to buy a modest home in the Midland, but these were funds that were either cash or sent directly to Cissy and I. For example, there would be numerous checks that were made out to us and the memo line would be “Dinner on us!” Because these funds were not sent to Jessica directly, they could not be deposited into the trust. It was a typical trust that was managed by a bank in Midland. We received monthly documentation of how it was managed and invested but the bank handled the details.
Did you ever feel temptations to dip into Jessica's money?
There really weren’t temptations, the intent from the beginning was that it be for Jessica. There were times when it would have been tempting to use the money to fund a project or a business venture, but a trust does not have provisions for that. The best thing you can do with money in a situation is to leave it alone, let it grow to a substantial amount so that it can truly provide for the beneficiary.
We kept her out of the spotlight so that she would have the opportunity for a normal life. Once she was old enough to decide what she wanted to do she decided to keep it to a minimum. She really likes just being a normal girl. She likes knowing that people like her as a person and not just because she is a notable figure.
You and Jessica's mom were just 18 and 17 years old when this happened. Do you think being so young helped you or hurt you in being able to handle your lives becoming such an enormous public spectacle?
The truth is that it was an extreme disadvantage. Not only were we so very young, but I was shy to the point of being incapacitated. I had just accepted a job with a retail sporting goods store and the owner wasn’t sure it was going to work out because I was too shy to deal with the public. What did help, what saved us from certain embarrassment, was the fact that we were surrounded by very good people that protected us and helped us handle the situation and publicity. It still amazes me the people that God had placed in my life, in advance, who would be there for us at a time when we needed them most. The most notable is a man that is a life-long friend, in fact he has known me my whole life. He was involved in politics with my father. My family doesn’t have “god parents” but if they did Darrell Smith would be my godfather. Darrell came in and handled everything, he became our attorney and mentor. He called in a favor from Texas State Senator Pete Snelson, to handle public relations for us. Darrell assisted with the trust that was set up and the subsequent movie deal. I truly do not know what we would have done without him.
That report is actually false. Jessica grew up knowing about her trust and being invol
|Jessica and her family in 2012.|
ved in the media decisions. Statements like that make good T.V. and help to promote other shows. I’m sure it originated with a comment, but was taken out of context. It’s like saying when did you set the kids down and tell them daddy is the president. The kids don’t have to be told, they just grow up with it. It’s all about how it is lived, the attitude of the parents. With Jessica we never made it a big deal, so it wasn’t a big deal. This allowed her to have a good attitude about life and her position in it.
The short answer is the grace of God. Any time you are thrust into the spotlight things can go very poorly. It really depends on your heart and your attitude. If you feel thankful for the love and attention, people will see that. If you thrive on the fame and attention, they’ll see that too. I am very thankful that all went well, the glory goes to God though. We were too young and naïve to make it through this good.
|Fireman Robert O'Donell helped pull Jessica|
from the well. He later committed suicide.
For Robert, fame was "like a drug," Chip says.
Robert was a friend, and I was deeply disturbed by how the media spotlight affected him. One night we were at a party and he told a young lady that he was "the guy who rescued Baby Jessica.” Her response was; “Yeah, you and 400 other people!” Let’s just say that Robert didn’t shy from the attention, he lived for it. It was like a drug that he would have been better off not being introduced to. A few years after the incident, the media attention abruptly stopped. I was relieved; Robert was despondent. He had many other issues that are private matters that I won’t go into. These things were a more relevant and current concern at his time of death, and in my opinion were much greater factors in his fatal decisions that day. Though, we will never really know what was going through his mind at the time.
I’m sure we would all do things different giving the opportunity and retaining our current knowledge and maturity, but again considering our age and circumstances I think we were very blessed to have everything go the way that it did.
It didn’t contribute to the break-up, it probably extended the marriage. The fact is we were both children when we met. We were not in love. I wish this had been a storybook in that sense, but it wasn’t. The good news is God’s grace is sufficient, and as bad as we mess things up He has a way of making the best out of it. As far as co-parenting, you have to place the child(ren) above your own feelings. You have to make them the priority and not pawns in a war between ex-spouses.
What are your thoughts on parents who put their children in the public eye? What is your advice to them?
It’s a scary way to make a life for yourself and your children. I do believe that if your intentions are good and you keep God at the center of everything that you do it can be great. If you are selfish, greedy and looking for fame, it’s going to be a tough life. For you and your children.
Resentment from your children is a painful thing. I’m very glad that I don’t have to look at my daughter and say; “Sorry, your money is gone!”
No. The idea has been bantered around over the last few years, it’s not something Jessica wants to do.
The worst part is that you do attract some unhealthy attention. For every thousand people that truly love and care about your family, there’ll be one who is a little off. This can be scary and dangerous. Any famous family has the opportunity to do wonderful things and touch people’s lives, they just have to want to do that.
I haven’t watched the show more than a few minutes, so I probably don’t have enough information to comment. It’s probably not healthy and the sad part is the kids didn’t get to choose.
I have both a Twitter account and a Facebook page, I started both fairly recently as I begin to consider writing a book. The Facebook page has really been a source for excellent feedback and encouragement. I do say very little about Jessica or her family on Facebook. The page is www.facebook.com/atimetopray.
|Amy and Chip today.|
Could you give us an update on how the family is doing now?Our entire family is blessed. Jessica, Danny and the kids are doing great. I am now finally married to the love of my life. My wife Amy is an amazing woman. We have six kids between us, a regular Brady Bunch. I sell airplanes for a living at www.ridgeaire.com and as I mentioned before have been kicking around the idea of writing a book about the inspiring story of Jessica’s rescue.
My main purpose is to encourage people to pray and get involved. Jessica was rescued because 400 people showed up and worked with all of their ability. Her rescue was successful because the whole nation prayed together for her. Imagine what we could accomplish today if we all prayed, and became involved. Thanks for the opportunity to share.