In early June 2017, the Town of Three Hills, Ab. and surrounding Kneehill County got more than they bargained for during their annual Cruise Weekend.
A long heat spell combined with a cold front resulted in a massive tornado which ripped through the area just north of town, a natural phenomenon that occurs rarely on the prairies.
A local family that made the best of it was the Wessels.
“It was Cruise Weekend and we are professional swimmers where we go to swim meets and swim competitions,” began Cecilia Wessels.
“Life is busy and that was the day my husband had to a lot of chores and he decided he was going to mow the lawn.”
Cecilia was woken up by her daughter after she had finished watching the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and was worried that her father was not coming inside with the tornado still moving.
Theunis Wessels was caught mowing his lawn as the nasty weather passed by their home.
Wife Cecilia captured the moment and posted it to Facebook. From there it took off and became an internationally recognized meme within a few short days.
Professional Storm Chaser Jeff Adams found the image first where he shared it on his social media platforms.
Cecilia said, “As a storm chaser he was like ‘No way’ and he contacted me and said ‘Can I tweet this out?’. I didn’t even have Twitter at that time.
“He tweeted it out and then I believe the radio station in Edmonton picked it up first and then they called us and then we had an interview that evening at like 10 o’clock at night.
“It just blew up after that.”
Some of the largest companies like Netflix took advantage of the photo, even going as far as creating their own meme out of it.
Despite both negative and positive reactions of the image, the family likes to look at the bright side.
“It does challenge you to understand what your opinion is because a lot of groups contacted us like churches, political parties, and they wanted to go a certain way with it and that is not why I took the picture. That’s not at all connected to the picture.
“On the opposite side people were thanking us for the picture and I’m like ‘Wow,’” said Cecilia.
With all the stardom bestowed upon the family, 21 Inch Film Co., one of the companies involved with the movie ‘Vice’ has taken note of the instant fame, asking them permission to use the image in the film centred on past United States Vice President Dick Cheney.
‘Vice’ is a 2018 American biographical comedy-drama film written and directed by Adam McKay and stars Christian Bale as the former vice president. Amy Adams and Steve Carell also play integral parts in the movie.
“It was very well done from their side. It was professional and legitimate,” she said.
The film released Christmas Day 2018 and has since received many awards and nominations including eight at the 91st Academy Awards. The purpose of the tornado image was to demonstrate the skills of the vice president at the time of his power.
“I think my husband had to hold me down when I saw my picture on the big screen. You can’t believe that’s your work right?” she said.
“It was very touching and super proud and when you watched the movie I do appreciate how the producers used the picture to link to the skills of the Vice President. I’m very happy with how they used it. The movie itself is wow.”