It wasn't a celebration, said Mayor Jack Reed Jr.
"But I think it has been very important to commemorate it and to remember it and to think about it," said Reed, who also read a proclamation in honor of the anniversary.
Nearly 200 people attended a free screening of "Tornado" at the Lyric. Roy Turner and Jim Palmer made the documentary in 1986.
"We interviewed 22 people, and 20 of them are gone now, so I'm glad we got their stories," Turner said.
Twenty-one survivors attended a reception before the screening.
Clytee Stone, 76, didn't have many memories to share because she was 1 when the tornado hit her home in Tupelo's Gum Pond area, but she has a powerful story, nonetheless.
Stone lost five siblings and her mother 75 years ago. That left her father to raise her and her four surviving siblings.
"Half my family died; half lived," she said. "My Daddy had his job cut out for him, but he did a good job."
She said she doesn't think about the tornado very often.
"I didn't witness it, so there are no memories there," she said. "I'm sort of glad it's that way."
Evelyn Duncan, 84, was 9 years old and new to Tupelo when the storm hit.
"It blew the top off our duplex. We couldn't live in it. We moved into a box car," she recalled. "We stayed in that box car for several months, until Daddy found us a room over a store."
Dr. Marion Winkler, 80, lived out of the tornado's path, but he might be able to shed new light on the aftermath.
"My grandmother had a movie camera, so she went out and took some movies," Winkler said.
He found the film in his attic and plans to give it to Turner.
"I want to get that footage turned into digital form," Turner said.
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or email@example.com.
At noon today, survivors and historians will tell stories about the 1936 Tupelo Tornado. It's free, and everyone's invited.