December 15, 2001 The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa re-opens to the public after 11 years of work to make the landmark more secure. The tower had been tilting to one side ever since construction began in the 12th Century and by 1990 was leaning at an angle of around 5.5 degrees. After decades of structural studies, authorities closed the tower to the public for fear it could collapse. The bells were removed from the top of the tower to make it less top-heavy, and cables were attached to the seventh floor and anchored hundreds of meters away. To straighten the tower, tons of soil were removed from underneath the raised end. The result was a ‘lean’ of 3.97 degrees: low enough to be safe but significant enough to ensure that millions of tourists would return to be photographed ‘holding up’ the famous tower.
Also on December 15: Sioux chief Sitting Bull is shot dead by Indian police (1890); film premiere of Gone With the Wind (1945); the United States announces it will recognise China (1978).
Born on December 15: Gustave Eiffel (1832), Joe D’Amato (1936), Don Johnson (1949), Roman Pavlyuchenko (1981).