WHEN I was 13, I was involved in a terrorist attack.

On March 28 1994, schizophrenic Middlesbrough man Stephen Wilkinson broke into a classroom at Hall Garth School, where I was studying maths.

He stabbed 12-year-old Nikki Conroy to death and injured two other pupils during eight minutes of terror that have resonated through my life ever since.

The Northern Echo:

12-year-old Nikki Conroy was stabbed to death during eight minutes of terror

These days, the figure of a terrorist is configured differently in the national consciousness, but that’s what Wilkinson was and became known as throughout the intense media coverage that followed his attack.

It took longer, back then, for news of his actions to spread across the world but it was still just a matter of hours before my Teesside comprehensive became the focus of international attention.

Wilkinson’s attack happened in a time when such incidents were mercifully almost unheard of – before Dunblane, before Columbine, before the world became sadly too familiar with terror in the classroom.

His actions genuinely stunned the country, the murderous assault on innocent children causing shockwaves that brought with them widespread fear and helplessness.

It was not merely the children at Hall Garth and their families who were left traumatised, but all capable of putting themselves in their shoes – if your children couldn’t be safe at school, where could they be safe?

As we battle to come to terms with this week’s horrific attack in Manchester, I hear echoes from the past, the same kind of questions coming to the fore – who could target children like this? If our kids are not safe at a pop concert, where can they ever be safe?

As the incident at Hall Garth left a legacy of heightened school security that will protect generations of children, this week’s attack will undoubtedly bring the introduction of tighter security measures at gigs (and so it should – security has been woefully inadequate at every concert I’ve been to).

However, where parents feared sending their children back to school in 1994, some are now – understandably – considering boycotting concerts as many others consider avoiding events and places they believe could be targeted in similar attacks..

This instinctive reaction is one that I recognise and empathise with after spending much of my younger years in a desperate attempt to avoid threatening situations.

But the reaction also saddens me, knowing just how easy it can be for terrorists to continue destroying lives long after their names are forgotten.

On a personal level, Wilkinson’s actions took hold of my life for far too long, controlled in a variety of ways my day-to-day existence, fear preventing me from living as I had the right to live.

And now, as a result of this terror-stricken climate, I see those familiar side-effects of post-trauma all around me.

I understand, perhaps better than some, the instinctive nature of our reaction to terrorist atrocities.

But I have no wish to see the kind of trauma I’ve spent decades battling embedded in the national psyche – it is exhausting, horribly limiting and it gives the monsters who perpetuate terror a power they do not deserve.