Monday, January 12, 2009

Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks puts his left hand on the book and raises his right, ready to take the oath of office. Dozens of cameras capture this moment in history Sunday, though Sgt. Brooks was just a stand-in for President-elect Barack Obama.

“It felt great to be famous for one day,” he told reporters after spending hours standing in for Mr. Obama, a Democrat, during a dress rehearsal for the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Organizers picked the 26-year-old Army staff sergeant, from Fayetteville, N.C., because he resembles Mr. Obama in height, weight and skin color. But he’s not an exact match. When Sgt. Brooks met Mr. Obama on Thursday, “he said my ears weren’t as big as his.”

Other stand-ins were military personnel who resembled Mr. Obama’s wife, Michelle, Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and others expected on the inaugural stage. Even a faux President Bush showed up, as inaugural officials worked out the kinks in their plans for what likely will be the biggest ceremony the District has hosted.

As the sky over the Capitol grew light, cannons boomed, military bands played marching music and stand-ins took their places.

The 6-foot-2 Sgt. Brooks stood stock still as several handlers moved the man facing him, a stand-in for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., to the right, then left, then right again, before marking the spot with brightly colored tape. Small shifts and fixes were all part of a long day.

“It’s important to rehearse this so it goes off flawlessly on the Inauguration Day,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Lucy Quinn, spokeswoman for the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. “The president is supposed to take the oath of office as close to noon as can possibly be timed.”

Even before the stand-ins took their places, the U.S. Marine Band and U.S. Army Herald Trumpets fine-tuned their performances. The musicians chuckled at those who made mistakes while practicing.

Sam Myers, a Biden staffer, checked out the scene and walked among the stand-ins. He and other aides to the president-elect and vice president-elect will tell their bosses what to expect, said Howard Gantman, staff director of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Later, on the East Side of the Capitol, the military practiced landing the helicopter that will take Mr. Bush, a Republican, to Andrews Air Force Base after Mr. Obama becomes president. Then the helicopter was replaced by a mock-up of the motorcade that will take the new president to the White House.

WTOP-FM 103.5 radio reported that a miscommunication between agencies led to confusion about which streets were closed for the parade rehearsal.

Large sections of Constitution and Independence avenues Northwest were closed and the information did not reach the public, the station said.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Council member Jim Graham, both Democrats, said city and federal officials will review the problem Monday.

When the president-elect’s name was announced during the practice inauguration, it was “Barack H. Obama” - not Barack Hussein Obama. During the campaign, Mr. Obama’s middle name - common in the Middle East - was at times used as a negative by people opposed to his election.

After winning the presidency, Mr. Obama said he planned to use his full name in the swearing-in ceremony. The Presidential Inaugural Committee said Sunday that Mr. Obama still plans to use his middle name when taking the oath of office.

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