(ABC 6 News) -- Cheryl Burt still remembers the quiet winter night in 1996 when her life changed forever.
Burt and her family had just moved into an older home in Minnesota, and due to the cold, they were running their furnace and fireplace to keep warm.
What the family didn't know, however, was that the furnace had slowly been leaking carbon monoxide into their home and causing them all to become ill. One night, the amount of carbon monoxide in the home became too much to bear.
"The parts per million were so high that basically we were being suffocated," she recalled.
Her family had been feeling flu-like symptoms leading up to that night, but instead of a virus, their illness was caused by a silent killer-- the colorless, odorless carbon monoxide. By the time Burt realized what was making her family sick, it was too late.
"By the time I got upstairs before 911 got there, I was crawling, banging into the walls," Burt said. "I was so poisoned I could barely see, but I knew I had to get to the kids. I checked on the baby first, and I knew that he was dead. Then I made it to my 4-year-old, and I knew he was dead. And I couldn't even bear to make it to (5-year-old son) Ryan. I just laid down in bed there and I was just like that's it."
When help arrived, Cheryl, her then-husband, son Ryan and the family dog were saved. But 15-month-old Zachary and 4-year-old Nicholas had died.
The family's loss isn't isolated; between 1999 and 2014, 6,653 people died in the United States from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, including 179 in Minnesota and 112 in Iowa.
Burt has since become an advocate for carbon monoxide poisoning awareness, touring the country and even testifying in front of a Senate subcommittee in 2009, sharing her story in the hope of preventing similar deaths.
Her efforts caught the attention of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), who along with Sen. John Hoeven (R- North Dakota) introduced a resolution naming this week "National Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Awareness Week."
"I think they don’t realize how quickly it can kill, and Cheryl is the best spokesperson for that because she can tell her story," Klobuchar told ABC 6 News on Friday. "She didn’t do anything wrong, it just happened, and it can happen to other people, especially when we see increased use of generators, we know that’s a sign, even though that’s not what happened in her case, we know that’s a sign."
Klobuchar pointed out that while many accidental carbon monoxide deaths occur in cold-weather states, the use of generators after devastating hurricanes in the southern portion of the country has led to similar issues there.
Klobuchar said she's hoping the bill's passage will result in additional education funding being given to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to prevent tragedy for other families.
Burt also highlighted how far carbon monoxide detectors have come in the past two decades, and encourages everyone to install one in their home and change its batteries along with smoke detectors. And while she can't change the events of that night 21 years ago, she's hoping her advocacy will save others from similar heartbreak.
"It's always going to be my life. I have two children who died of carbon monoxide, and we all almost died of carbon monoxide. That's always going to be my deal, but it doesn't need to be others' deal," she said.