Danny Lee was determined to be at his wife’s side when she gave birth to their second child. The roadie for the Backstreet Boys had permission to peel away from the band’s tour after Monday’s concert, and after a long night breaking down the stage in Boston, he caught the first flight home to Los Angeles the next morning.
Kellie Lee, however, spent most of that day praying her husband had missed American Airlines Flight 11.
Thursday morning--two days after Danny died when his hijacked plane slammed into the World Trade Center--she gave birth to a healthy 8-pound, 12-ounce girl, Allison Danielle.
“I had a hard time being happy,” said Kellie, 32, who was in a hospital bed holding her gurgling newborn. "[But] I’m all teared out at the moment. . . . He would’ve held my hand. He would’ve been in the room.”
Van Nuys resident Danny Lee, 34, was remembered as a sweet man. Friends said he’d been enamored of rock ‘n’ roll and a life on the road since his teens, but put his family first. Tuesday morning he’d called Kellie, as he always did, to say that he’d be home soon and that he loved her.
“In the touring business, we’re out here to do a job, but when there’s family at home that’s the No. 1 priority--and for Danny that was especially true,” said longtime friend Brian Crouch, a roadie with the veteran rock band REO Speedwagon. “I’d see him call Kellie every day.
“But he wasn’t an early riser. They’d probably just finished the load-out from Monday’s concert, and I’m sure he’d gotten a couple of hours’ sleep and got out to the airport, waiting to see his little girl get born. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”
On Thursday, mother and child were resting at Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center after a routine caesarean section. Relatives and friends said Kellie had been in shock over her husband’s death.
Gathered around her in the hospital room were her parents, Tom and Sandy Whitford, and her older daughter, Amanda, 2, who has her father’s wavy hair and does not understand that he is gone.
“I told her, ‘Daddy isn’t coming home,’ ” Kellie said. “She said, ‘Yes he is. In five minutes, he’ll be back.’ ”
Tom Whitford said his daughter is worried about an uncertain future as a single mother. She recently lost her job as an office worker, and she and her husband were planning to make a new start in Erie, Pa., where her parents live.
“Right now she’s flat broke,” he said. “She has no insurance. She has nothing left. But today, she’s holding up great.”
Danny and Kellie, who would have been married six years next month, had struggled with the decision to move to Pennsylvania, but felt it best that she be close to her parents while he was touring. He’d traveled as far as Australia and Asia as a set carpenter for the likes of Yanni, Barbra Streisand and ‘N Sync.
Friends said the couple met 10 years ago at a rock show back when Danny was playing drums in a band.
Whitford said it took awhile for him to get used to having a son-in-law in the music business, but he eventually came around.
“I knew he worked hard. I’d heard where he sometimes worked 21 hours a day on that job. We did share a game of golf a couple of days ago and we had a good time.”
Lee is still planning to move with her daughters to Erie in the coming weeks, Tom Whitford said. One of Danny’s employers, Mike Hirsh, owner of L.A. Stagecall, said he was sending workers to load load her truck, and other friends talked of establishing a fund for the girls.
Lee’s mother, Elaine Susino, lives in Palm Desert. He is also survived by two brothers and a sister.
“We’re holding up,” said one brother, Jack Fleishman of Los Angeles. “We have a lot more closure than a lot of people have in this. At least we don’t have to wait up to see if he’s lying in the rubble, like a lot of people do.”
After Monday’s show in Boston, the Backstreet Boys’ crew moved on to Toronto. Before Wednesday’s performance, they called their crew onstage and told the audience how the week’s events had affected them directly and asked for a moment of silence.
“Man, I’ll tell you, we’re all just devastated out here,” said tour manager Marty Hom. “What we do out here is not really important--it’s entertainment. What he was going home for, that was really important.”