Eighteen years ago this morning, every American old enough to have a memory of tragedy knows exactly where they were when terrorists armed with nothing more than box cutters killed more than 3,000 people.

They didn’t use evil black rifles. They weaponized passenger planes, turning them into guided missiles.

Eighteen years later, because of their actions, and our over-reactions, we’re a different nation.

Long gone are the symbolic unification gestures on the steps of the Capitol, along with the freedom to walk onto an airplane without being subjected to the kind of scrutiny formerly reserved for third world dictatorships or war zones.

Are we any safer? I’d say not.

Many of the same politicians who joined arms and pledged they would do whatever it took to keep the nation safe are busy this week introducing more feel-good legislation that will demonize law abiding citizens by making it more difficult to defend ourselves from people who mean us harm.

At the same time, the next generation is being taught that a cause for 9/11 was American aggression around the globe. Our “meddling” in the affairs of other nations -according to the people who are rewriting our history- is one reason the radical Islamists want us gone.

To that, I have always had the same response: if the United States had wanted to rule the world, ala Rome, we would. And all the countries who have spit in our faces in exchange for our aid and assistance would have been considerably less aggravation for the rest of the world.

Instead, we’ve given to those who haven’t appreciated the aid and continued to do the right thing, despite the fact we knew there would be no appreciation in return. For a majority of Americans, doing the right thing isn’t an option.

Today isn’t a day to gripe about what’s wrong with the United States; it’s a day to remember that we’ve always gotten back up after being knocked down. And that those knockdowns have always been the result of sucker punches. Americans, it seems, are considerably effective opponents in fair fights. Unfortunately, today’s not a time characterized by fair fights.

But this anniversary has been one of the most difficult for me. There was still a lot of anger and desire for payback the first couple of years, but that’s long passed, along with the mistaken idea that our most dangerous enemies are outside the country.

Today, we’re our own worst enemies. We’ve traded our core values for tolerance, our personal principals for profits, and seem incapable of thinking in time spans longer than quarters.

This week, I’m in Illinois at a writer’s event. And as we look at new products, I’m encouraged by the fact that we’re still an industry of small companies. And many of them choose to make their products in the United States knowing that they’ll likely never become as big as the companies that always choose the lowest price supplier, not the best product for the money.

They’re not trying to become the biggest company in their categories. But they’re working tirelessly to be known as the best in category for innovation, customer satisfaction and quality.

They’re no different from the more than 3,000 people who died eighteen years ago today. They were guilty of nothing more than choosing to go to work pursuing their versions of the American dream.

No one whose name is written on markers in New York, Washington, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania volunteered, but thousands of young people since then have, traversing the globe, putting themselves into harm’s way- voluntarily- so that everyone at home would be

As we remember 9/11, we need to do some serious reevaluation what we’re doing personally to make certain their sacrifice isn’t wasted. where we’re headed as a nation.

We can correct what’s wrong, but we’re not going to get the job done sitting silently. We need to stop worrying about people who are “threatened” or “offended” by the fact we still believe right and wrong aren’t relatives, they’re absolutes.

because we’re worried some will feel threatened or be offended because we are tired of listening to people who

Americans have always been willing to sacrifice for a greater good. I can’t imagine a greater one than seeing our country back on track. And I can’t imagine a better time to start than today.

—Jim Shepherd