Kathy Fiscus Changed Our World

My first adventure out of my filter bubble and into the uncharted world wide web was a visual feast.  I was looking at News360 and they have wonderful photos for every article.  I perused photos and headlines until something would stop me and then it did. A beautiful photograph.

Just lovely.  It was a black and white photo.  A tree with wispy ethereal leaves caught the light of the flash.  An abandoned hobby horse forgotten in the foreground.  An old-fashioned rope and wood swing stood still as the time it captured.   It seemed to be night and the children who played there were sleeping as their toys rested in the stillness of night.

Or maybe, they had grown up and moved away and the photo captured the ephemeral nature of childhood itself.

It was beautiful and haunting.  I wanted to know more.

As it turns out, that photo did capture the ephemeral nature of childhood, particularly of one child Kathy Fiscus.  I was amazed at what this photo taught me.

In April of 1949, a little girl named Kathy Fiscus was playing with her older sister and cousin.  They were racing across a field and naturally, the youngest, the 3-year-old, Kathy lagged behind.  But when the other kids looked back, she had disappeared entirely!

Kathy had, as it turned out, fallen down an abandoned well.  Her short life ended there in that well.

With thousands of abandoned wells all over the country, children were probably disappearing down them on a regular basis.  They certainly were on Lassie, when Timmy or his buddies were always in trouble and Lassie would go for help.  We grew up watching those shows, but I never for a minute thought it referred to something real!

But real it was for Kathy and her family.  And as it turned out for neighbors and people all over the country and all over the world!

Kathy Fiscus on Wikipedia   The rescue attempt received nationwide attention in the US as it was carried live on radio and on television—a still-new medium—by station KTLA and their reporter Stan Chambers at the beginning of his career. It is regarded as a watershed event in live TV coverage.”

The incident resulted in “Kathy Fiscus Laws” enacted across the nation requiring all abandoned wells to be capped and filled in.

Texas has a law that landowners are responsible for filling in and capping old abandoned wells. But there are still an unknown number of existing open wells that are accidents waiting to happen.  As you may remember, there was another similar incident on Oct. 14, 1987, when 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell 22 feet into an 8-inch well at Midland, Texas.

Kathy Fiscus Law
In a twist of fate perhaps, her father worked for the California Water and Telephone Company, which drilled the well some 45 years earlier.  Even more ironic is that he had been involved in testifying to the California State Legislature for a law requiring the plugging of abandoned wells.

All that came from this one  photo but which photo, you ask?  In addition to changing laws all over the country, having a country-n-western song written for her, being the reason for 100’s of 1000’s of girls named Kathy in the following few years,  launching a new ‘breaking-news-format on television,’ Kathy also launched the career of the photographer behind the famous photo (Leigh Wiener).

Wiener arrived at the scene of the rescue attempt and described it as a carnival.  He strayed away from the throng with their cameras focused on the well, waiting for someone to emerge and found these pictures off that beaten path.  When all the shutters fired at the same time showing the doctor and Kathy’s lifeless form emerging, Leigh’s photo was already on it’s way around the world.    See the beautiful, haunting photo and story here.

For more on Leigh Wiener, go to  The Photography of Leigh Wiener.

Little Kathy Fiscus didn’t live very long but she sure had a huge impact on the world!

I thought this was a good start to Resetting Your Life’s Algorithm.  Hope you enjoyed!  Please Share!


Patt Timlin

Let’s burst that filter bubble!

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  This post was originally published on November 7, 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy as a part of moving my blogs.]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s