A sweet angel – over and over, those are the words used to describe Rachel Nichole Lynch. At 17, she had already made an incredible impact on so many as a role model and a good friend. She had a way with younger girls. They looked up to her and she treated them as equals. Often mothers would comment about the huge difference Rachel had made in their daughters’ lives.
She was a thoughtful and caring friend. She always seemed to notice when an extra bit of encouragement was needed and would go out of her way to lift a friend’s spirits. Her mother, Jennifer, said if she had to choose one word to describe Rachel, it would be “wise.” She was wise beyond her years. Rachel and her mom shared a special relationship, one that went beyond mother and daughter to best friends. They loved spending time together: shopping, eating out, and going to concerts. But more importantly, they easily talked about anything and everything. It was a rare gift her mother treasured.
Rachel enjoyed golf and had been an avid competitive swimmer from a very young age. But her true passion was in music and theater. She had an amazing talent for technical production and sound engineering. She had worked backstage for the Briarcrest Christian School Fine Arts Department and was planning to serve as the Band Manager for the Briarcrest SoundScape Band her senior year. She dreamed of going to college and working in the music industry as a band manager or running sound for live concerts.
But those dreams would never come true. Little more than a week after school let out her junior year, Rachel joined three other girls on a beach trip to celebrate her friend, Caroline’s 18th birthday. Caroline’s grandmother had offered to drive the girls from their home, just outside of Memphis, south to the beach. They left at about 6am on Sunday, May 31, 2015. But around 6:30am, a repeat drunk driver with a BAC of .14 rear-ended their van causing it to flip and hit a utility pole. Rachel and Maddie Kruse, both sitting in the back row, were killed in the crash. Kara Holden sustained a broken collarbone and broken ribs. Caroline Kam and her grandmother had minor physical injuries but emotional scars that would last a lifetime. The man who hit them had been convicted 5 times for DUI and was out on bond for a 6th DUI arrest when he hit them, making the crash his 7th DUI.
Rachel’s father, Matthew, talks about how the crash has crippled their family. Her older brother Justin, says, “Every day I have to remind myself she is gone. Every day I have to force myself to go on for her.” Her mother, Jennifer, said “As parents we have lost our dreams of watching her turn 18, graduate from high school, then college, fall in love, get married. It breaks my heart every time I think that my husband will never get to walk Rachel down the aisle… We have been robbed of an entire future with our daughter. Our family will never be the same.”
One thing that has changed is that the Lynch’s have vowed that they will continue to fight for stronger DUI laws that force better communication and record keeping among districts and states to ensure that offenders such as the one that took their daughter are held accountable for their actions. They have lobbied in both Tennessee and Mississippi for improvements to DUI laws. Their story and the Kruse’s story was the inspiration for the DUI Reporting Act of 2016 introduced to the United States Congress by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) and U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) which would withhold federal funding from states that fail to require reporting of all DUI arrest and conviction records to NCIC. Both families will be supporting the bill, which is also endorsed by MADD, as it is reviewed in the coming months.
Rachel’s loss was felt by an entire community who shared in an immense heart break at her tragic passing. But it is the memory of her sweet spirit, her adorable personality, and her beautiful smile that unites them. Rachel was indeed an angel who lives on in the hearts and minds of all who were ever blessed to know her and one who has even touched innumerable lives of those who never had the pleasure of meeting her in person but who have come to know her through the love she left behind.