Seventeen years ago today our country, and the world, changed when the World Trade Center towers fell. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day – on the planes, including those on United Airlines Flight 93, in the towers, at the Pentagon.

The world felt different that day. The skies were silent. All planes, accept for military fighters, were grounded. Citizens raised their flags and, for once in what seemed like a long time, the country seemed truly united as it mourned the tragic day and stood tall with patriotism at its lapel.

The slogan at the time was “Never Forget.”

By Dec. 18, 2001, through a series of legislative events, President George W. Bush signed a resolution designating Sept. 11 as a national day of remembrance and mourning, and the following year, on Sept. 11, 2002, the first officially designated Patriot Day was honored.

"I believe our Constitution is a God-inspired document, that our country is a special place, and that, in a nutshell, Patriot Day – being a patriot every day – should mean more than just flying our flag."

Driving around Twin Falls this morning – a Tuesday, just like it was 17 years ago when the twin towers fell – I saw many American flags waving in the gentle breeze at businesses and some homes. The patriotic gesture is encouraging, but what was perhaps more noticeable were the many homes and businesses that did not display the Stars and Stripes.

I also thought about the division that exists in our country today. Politics, by its very nature, means there’ll always be opposing viewpoints; but the way I see it, our country hasn’t been this divided on such an array of social and political issues in a long time, if ever. I’m not going to write much about politics or take sides in my column, but I will ask a question: Has America forgotten the meaning behind the slogan to “Never Forget”?

Sure, we should never forget what happened on Black Tuesday and the innocent lives lost that sorrowful day.

But to me that slogan means more than just remembering the victims of 9/11. It means remembering – and living – our deep-rooted American values and patriotic ideals. Those may mean different things to differing people, I understand that, but there is a basic core that should unit us. It’s in the Constitution, including our First Amendment rights guaranteed by that most marvelous of documents.

“Never Forget” means being able to have differences, but still respecting the opposing views of others. If you break it down, that is what democracy is about after all– the freedom to think four ourselves, respecting other people’s freedom to do the same, no matter their race or ethnic background or religious views or gender preference, and to treat others as you would like others to treat you.

Sure, there’s a little bit of the “Golden Rule” in there too, but that’s how I view democracy. To me it means serving others (after all, service to our country means just that), and being a little more open and understanding why others may feel the way they do about the crucial issues of the day while standing by your own firm beliefs. To “Never Forget” means more than just voting. It’s the things we do every day that count in the long run.

I believe our Constitution is a God-inspired document, that our country is a special place, and that, in a nutshell, Patriot Day – being a patriot every day – should mean more than just flying our flag.

Have we forgotten? I hope not.

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