ALMOST a month ago, a teenager stormed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a rifle and murdered 17 people.

As I write this, students and teachers from all over the United States are preparing to walk out of their schools and universities in protest, uniting in a call for stricter gun laws.

It’s early on Wednesday morning here and my thoughts are with those young people who are stirring in their beds, readying themselves to face a day that will undoubtedly resonate in their memories forever.

They’re doing this because their dead classmates and those who died in corridors and classrooms before them were not enough to bring about change, because the procession of haunting yearbook photographs, chilling news footage of fleeing children and CCTV images of gun-toting murderers somehow became familiar to us all.

In more ways than this one, America can seem alien to us in the UK, a place half a world away, as distant in miles as it is in culture.

When grieving teenagers are forced to take to the streets as activists, that gulf becomes yet more unfathomable, difficult as it is to understand why laws were not restricted when the first child fell, all those years ago.

In 1994, I was confronted by a murderer in a classroom at Middlesbrough’s Hall Garth School. He stabbed my friend, Nikki Conroy, to death and attacked two others before teachers could overpower him.

He was working his way down a line of children, intent on killing us all. He had in his armoury a replica gun and I know with certainty that if he’d been able to get his hands on a real one, I would have died in that classroom, and so would many more of my classmates.

The tragedy at Dunblane came just two years later and in its wake came our own cry of ‘never again’, one that was met with tighter gun laws, changes to legislation that saved lives.

As a teenager grown fearful of my classroom, I never had to walk out of it to demand safety – schools, parents and politicians acted quickly to reassure us, to protect their young with legislation, with locks and fences, vows, bans and pledges.

It is startling to see those cries for help echoed across the seas, to see a young person say ‘never again’ and be met with hesitation, with denial, often with stubborn and cruel hostility.

After Hall Garth, after Dunblane, when we told our elders that we felt unsafe, they listened and they acted, in school, at home and in Parliament.

Grief-stricken children who have experienced their peers die by the dozen on classroom floors should not have to fight to feel safe.

But somehow, in today’s America, they must fight and so, backed by a watching world, they will.

They will take to the streets and they will demand change and along the way, they will change minds, perhaps one day legislation.

As they rise from their desks, those brave young Americans have millions around the world standing with them, amplifying their voices to insist ‘never again’ becomes a reality, not just a momentary movement.

Driven by the tragedies at its heart, this student-led protest is growing and I hope that these teenagers and all who stand with them can eventually change their world as we changed ours.

No more children, no more teachers should die in the place they felt safest for want of protection from those in politics, in power. Never again.