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Mrs. R.D. McCray took the train from High Point, North Carolina to D.C. Nine hours. Back home she told everyone she was going to a rehearsal for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. An inauguration rehearsal? No one she talked to knew there was any such thing. She hadn’t known about the inaugural practice-run either, until her nephew Juan Dunlap and his wife, Brenda C. Siler—both longtime District residents—told her about it. How, you know, the inauguration was going to be crowded, millions, “so maybe I wanted to come out for the rehearsal instead.”

At the rehearsal, there were only about 150 onlookers, and she could get as close as the green chain link fence surrounding rows of brown folding chairs would let her. When Inauguration Day comes, she said, “I’ll be sitting in front of the television, and I’ll be able to say I was there. I stood right there.”

“I’m glad to be able to live history,” she added.

Even though it was all pretend, Mrs. McCray got to experience some interesting moments at the dress rehearsal: As the names of various politicians were announced (and their stand-ins took on-stage seating) everyone got a cheer except for the stand-ins of (guess who) President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. “Evidently, there are a lot of Democrats here,” a guy in the crowd joked.

Other highlights?The inaugural address of Barack Obama’s stand-in: “My fellow Americans. God bless America,” and the benediction of the substitute Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery: “Let us pray. Amen.” There was a loud band screw-up involving a xylophone, and also what must have been an organizing snafu: There were a multitude of porta-potties surrounding the Capitol building, but they all seemed to be locked, which meant quite a few rehearsal attendees got into engrossing conversations about where to pee.

Oh, and then there was the uncomfortable moment when Rick Warren‘s stand-in came out to deliver the invocation, and almost everyone in the cold January morning groaned, and some guy from Virginia (I asked him) said pretty loud, “Did you hear some people booing over there? Must be from Dupont Circle.”

Photo courtesy of NewsHour