GLACE BAY, N.S. -- It's a moving sight from a distance -- an oceanside monument honouring 12 miners who were killed in a Glace Bay mining disaster in 1979.

However, a closer look at the monument now reveals a different picture.

“It makes me feel heartbroken that someone would deface a monument that’s been put here for 12 miners who lost their lives and sacrificed everything for their families. It’s very hurtful,” says Joanne Sheppard, a family member of one of the miners who was killed.

A sexually explicit image has been spray painted at the base of the main statue, putting a damper on celebrations for the days-old tribute.

“Coming from Glace Bay, you know your history. You got to have mining in your family, whether it’s your grandfather or your uncle or your father,” says Mary Pat Mombourquette, executive director of the Cape Breton Miners Museum. “It seems like you’re spitting on all of those people and your heritage.”

It was in the early morning hours of Feb. 24, 1979, when 12 men lost their lives after an explosion in the No. 26 colliery.

Sheppard's father, Fabian Young, was one of the miners killed. She says she remembers the day vividly.

“I watched my mother go to pieces that day. She was never the same after that. Something like this stays with you forever,” says Sheppard.

Four men survived the blast but there has never been a place for families to reflect and remember, until recently. Twelve lunch pails with the names of the men who died engraved on them surround the main monument.

It's a project, with community support, that Sheppard has been pushing for.

“I think it’s really important that we have something in Glace Bay to commemorate and to remind people the loss miners faced over the years,” she says.

There’s still no word on who defaced the monument. Sheppard says she wants whoever did this to be held responsible and realize the impact of what they did.

“I’d like to appeal to the person who did this to come and make a public apology,” says Sheppard.