2,996- 9-11 Tribute: Daniel John Lee

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imageDan Lee boarded a plane early Tuesday morning so he could be at his wife’s side in California as she gave birth to their second child.

The 34-year-old Van Nuys man was on American Airlines Flight 11. His wife, Kellie, spent the day praying he had missed his plane. But the set carpenter for the Backstreet Boys tour had not.

The couple had been together 10 years and married for six years, his wife said. He still opened car doors for her and kissed her over the table at restaurants. Although he traveled the world as a roadie for acts including Yanni, ‘N Sync and Barbra Streisand, Lee called his wife three to four times a day to tell her he loved her.

On Thursday, Kellie gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She gave her the first name the couple had picked out together–Allison. But Kellie gave her a different middle name, Danielle, to honor her late husband.

Lee was a carpenter who worked on the crew of pop musicians the Backstreet Boys. He had been using a two-day break in the band’s touring schedule to travel from their date in Boston back to Los Angeles to spend time with his wife.

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.”

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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 after the attacks, 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 had 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 ####. She has nothing left. But today, she’s holding up great.”

Danny and Kellie, who would have been married six years the following 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 was still planning to move with her daughters to Erie in the weeks follwoing 9/11, 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.”

Daniel Lee was returning to Los Angeles to witness the birth of his second child. He had gotten a 10-day leave as a stage carpenter for the Backstreet Boys and, after a long night Monday dismantling the stage in Boston, he boarded Flight 11.

Hours earlier, he had called his wife, Kellie, to remind her to be at the airport to pick him up.

He was excited about the birth, which was to be by Caesarean section. The couple had chosen Sept. 13 as the date, to make sure he could be there. “He would have held my hand,” Kellie Lee said.

The scheduled birth of his daughter went on as planned. Allison Danielle Lee was born at 8:10 a.m. Thursday. The 8-pound, 11-ounce baby girl not only shares part of her daddy’s name, but also his nose, her mother said.

Those close to the 34-year-old Lee said he was serious about his work, sometimes putting in 21-hour days. As a roadie, he had traveled as far as Australia and Asia, and had worked with Neil Diamond, Yanni, ‘N Sync and Barbra Streisand.

But his family was top priority. He called home every day, friends said.

The couple met 10 years ago at a rock show in which “Danny” was playing the drums. Oct. 7 would have been their sixth wedding anniversary.

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The following was a tribute written by a friend of a friend for Daniel John Lee:

A tribute to a friend of a friend

a strong lady in the storm

She still stands proud

Our flag is still there

Still flying

Roadie Warrior

By Claudette

We met at the hotel bar last night about 11:00pm. Of all the things I thought I might do while on tour with the Boys of Pop, planning a memorial service was not one of them.

It takes about 200 people to put on a show the size of the Backstreet Boys. There are riggers, carpenters, electricians, lighting and pyro technicians, wardrobe, and a whole team of production folks to coordinate the logistics. They are what the outside world would call “roadies.” I guess I should say “we” are what the outside world would call roadies. A lot of this crew has been together since the Millennium tour a couple of years ago. The really big one that put the BSB on the map of pop sensation. I, being the nubile tour-sponsor-roadie, not in the thick of it like the rest, have only just recently gotten to know the crew. They are really an amazing group of people.

Sometimes, when I have an extra minute during the day, I sit in one of the arena seats and just watch the action. At any given point there is someone climbing high in the rafters, someone leading a crew of local hands assembling parts of the stage, and someone else mastering all the pyrotechnics that make the show go boom in ways I will never ever understand. These are all the same people that just ate toast and cereal with me or laughed about a favorite Simpson’s episode the night before. Many people have families who we get to meet when we pass through home cities, or who visit the tour during a long stay in a city. As cheesy as it sounds, though, the people who you tour with quickly become a different type of family – they become the constant in the very surreal and inconsistent world of concert motion.

Anyway, we had just finished three nights in Boston, making up for the shows we missed in July when AJ entered rehab. It was actually great to be back in Boston. This time around, we all knew exactly what to expect with setting up the show, so it went oh-so smoothly. Plus, we were looking forward to heading North for a day off and three nights in Toronto. You know how much I love Canada. So, on Monday night, after the last show in Boston, we got into our busses for the overnight drive to Toronto. If all had gone as planned, we would have woken up across the border ready to change our dollars for loonies and enjoy a day off before our first show on Wednesday. It didn’t quite happen like that.

Tuesday, September 11. By now, you all know what happened. What you don’t know is that one of our carpenters, Daniel Lee, was aboard the first airplane that crashed into the World Trade Center. Daniel was taking two weeks off to be with his pregnant wife who was due any day. Actually, I think today’s her due date. It was hard enough to believe the live coverage on CNN was anything other than a gross Bruce Willis flick intended to rile the audience against some foreign terrorist – but to imagine that someone who you’d just seen the night before was on that plane is unfathomable. I watched several crew members break down unabashedly in our hotel bar, where we sat watching the details unfold. I did something I don’t normally do – get rip-roaring drunk. Cosmopolitans seemed the only appropriate response to the ludicrous events in New York and DC.

We got through yesterday’s show, which was an amazing feat. The managers debated about whether to cancel the show, and everyone was mixed about what would be the most appropriate response. The consensus seemed to be that “keeping busy” would somehow help the pain. The Boys went on stage and asked for a moment of silence for Danny. I have never seen an audience of 15,000 so quiet. Carolyn and I did not do our Pop promotion last night, either. How could we go on with our silly shtick like nothing had changed?

I volunteered to organize a memorial service for Danny on Friday before the show, which is what put me back at the bar last night at 11:00 pm. I asked for a couple of crew that knew him really well to help me. I just want to make sure I do it right. If we do nothing else but come together as a group to acknowledge the personal tragedy, that will be a start.

These past two days have been traumatic on so many levels. I had to excuse myself from the lunch table yesterday when a fellow crewmember commented that perhaps it was finally time to “kick out all the foreigners.” I also excused myself from a conversation where, after I pointed out that we have been bombing the Middle East for years, a crewmember responded that we just “need to try harder.” I understand their pain and you understand my politics, and this is a hell of a time for me to learn patience and restraint.

I am saddened that at this time in history, there is no Gandhi, no MLK, no Mother Teresa to help guide the world through what could be one of the worst moments in history. Even the Pope couldn’t seem to say much beyond the obvious. I’m sitting here listening to the music of the Sufi mystic Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, wishing he, too, was still around. It helps that he is singing in Arabic. It helps that I can’t understand what he is saying. Sometimes there are just no words for sadness.

With much love,

Claudette

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