BROWNSVILLE, Brooklyn (PIX11) — In a matter of moments, a Brooklyn mother’s life almost changed forever while at work.

“As long as they’re breathing, I am breathing,” the mother told PIX11’s Anthony DiLorenzo outside of a Manhattan hospital on Monday.

On Sunday, her three children had stopped breathing. Their father stepped out to get groceries, he told police, and their apartment on Livonia Avenue went up in flames.

The kids were left alone and locked inside. Eight-year-old Naomi, 5-year-old Tonya and 4-year-old Anthony were trapped and ultimately passed out on the floor.

“It’s ridiculous! No reason kids should be left by themselves,” said their neighbor, Rahnell Texsara.

Since smoke detectors were not working, a neighbor and her son sprang into action and called 911.

“I covered my face with water and tried my best to break into the door,” recalled Texsara. 

Finally, FDNY members broke through the door and scooped them off the floor, saving their lives. 

“This was really advanced fire. The door was locked, clutter in the apartment, and it was heavily filled with smoke. It took a lot to find the kids,” said FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. 

“They are under sedation with ventilators, not breathing on their own as of yet,” their mother said. 

Their dad, Anthony Halliburton, Jr., 38, was charged on Monday with endangering the welfare of the children and later released. He promised a judge he would not have contact with the kids. 

“Father has to deal with that, and all parents should stay with children. We don’t leave them alone; accidents happen,” said NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey. 

Many were also left in disbelief over the decision.

“His excuse was, ‘I was only gone for five minutes.’ I’m like, anything can happen in one minute! These are children,” said Texsara. 

“I am at a rage, and I will be forever upset and angry. I have to stay calm and keep my composure for these children because all they have is me,” the mother said about her relationship with Halliburton.

A GoFundMe to help the family can be found here.