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When strangers become friends

By Mara Schiavocampo, NBC Nightly News digital correspondent

If anything can make you grumpy, it's standing in the freezing cold for hours. Add to that large crowds and tons of walking, and you have all the ingredients for a major mood swing. So how did inauguration crowds on the National Mall respond to all of these things? By doing the electric slide.

I was one of the estimated two million people at the mall today, covering President Obama's inauguration for Nightly News online. Let me tell you, it wasn't all pretty. The morning started at 4 a.m. with a two-hour walk to the mall. On a normal day it would have taken 30 minutes. But with all of the closures and crowds and detours it took four times as long. The weather was absolutely freezing. Around 6 a.m. it was 22 degrees. I comforted myself with the hope that the sun would warm things up. An hour and a half and one sunrise later, the temperature was 19 degrees – three degrees lower! (So much for the sun warming the earth.) And then there were the crowds. With an estimated two million people attending, you can imagine there wasn't a lot of elbow room.

Despite all of these things, people were overwhelmingly pleasant, friendly, and happy - no, downright giddy. Strangers treated each other as friends, sharing laughs and hot commodities like hand warmers. The history of the day combined with what many consider a much needed change for the country was far more powerful than some stinkin' cold weather and tight spaces.

Which brings me to the electric slide. Around 9:30a (when many had already been standing for five hours) I saw a few people doing the electric slide to the music on the jumbotron. Then a few more joined. Then a few more. In seconds the small bunch swelled to about 30 people. They were laughing. They were smiling. A group of strangers brought together by the urge to dance in the streets, celebrating history.